Business

Going Organic

 

by Janet Sun

Organic fruit and vegetables are supposed to be pesticide free and have higher nutritional values. However, consuming these products is not popular in Hong Kong.

According to the report of Hong Kong Organic Research Centre, licensed organic food only makes up five per cent of all vegetables in local wet markets in 2014.

Some local farmers are now setting up shop in urban Hong Kong, making it easier for health conscious shoppers to get their hands on fresh and safe produce.

At the farmers' market at Star Ferry Central Pier Seven every Sunday, local farmers offer all kinds of organic certified fruit and vegetables. The market is organized by Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden.

They signed an agreement with Star Ferry Company to use the venue. The farmers benefit from the low cost rent and can, therefore sell their products at affordable prices.

"The farmers pay $200 per month for a booth, " said Queenie Shum, spokeswoman for Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden. Kadoorie provides shelter, tables and chairs and the farmers share the cost of transport.

"The farmers would club together to rent a van to bring their vegetables from the New Territories," Ms Shum said. The organisers check that the produce is organic certified when the farmers apply to join the market. They have been doing so since 2007 as a way of promoting local farms.

"We support locally grown crop and provide a platform for the public to get in touch with local farmers," said Ms Shum.2

Wong Kim-so started working on his farm in Yuen Long after retirement. He said the advantage of the farmers market in Central Pier is that lots of shoppers walk through the area. That helps to promote and introduce local organic produce to city dwellers.

"Also, the farmers' market here in Central would not be affected by the weather, unlike some unsheltered markets," said Mr Wong.

Mr. Wong often gets together with three or four farmers to book a van to come to Central from Yuen Long. Although it costs him $300 every trip, he still thinks that joining the Central farmers' market is a good choice for local organic farmers.

"We cannot manage online orders," said Mr Wong. "We cannot deliver to every single customer."

Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden can afford to run the market, he said, because they are backed by the Kadoorie Foundation. Without support, Mr Wong believed it would be difficult to to get the farmers together.

Ms Chee, the representative of Happy Green Farm from Ping Che said that the farm has been renting for a booth at the market for more than 10 years. She said that the main problem with organic farming in Hong Kong is that there is no where to sell their produce.

"The Vegetable Marketing Organization would only offer low prices for our organic crop," said Ms Chee.

But at the Central market, farmers can afford the rent and make a decent profit by selling directly to customers, bypassing cumbersome government procedures.

"We can directly talk to our customers and offer them our best prices and we can control the prices ourselves," she said. The organic farms are also offering online orders and market days at local universities. But the farmers' market is where they make much of their profit.

Unlike most other markets, farmers there try to introduce new crops to their customers.

Shoppers say the farmers' market has brought the countryside to the urban areas.

"People in the city have very tense lives and this has brought local farms closer to the city," said Mr Ngai, who bought some organic ginger from one of the booths.

"Hong Kong people know the advantages of consuming organic food," Ms Shum said, " and we believe the farmers' market will become more and more popular."

(Edited by Harry Ng)

 

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