Agriculture in Hong Kong today is largely on a small scale and the main produce includes vegetables, poultry and pigs with fishing also representing a cultural heritage but less emphasis is put on what the government is doing to make local agriculture more viable than importing foodstuff. The aim of this paper is to determine whether agriculture in Hong Kong can be redeveloped using the available resources, with the help of the government for better quality and competitive prices in the market. The investigation focused on what the government can do to revive agriculture in Hong Kong, specifically I dwelled on methods that the agriculture, fisheries and Conservative Department (AFCD) have come up with to redevelop agriculture. In my findings, it is possible to redevelop agriculture in Hong Kong, in that the government is willing to cooperate and improve the status quo of the agricultural sector in Hong Kong.
It is widely believed and known that Hong Kong has limited land available for farming and animal husbandry. The available land in Hong Kong cannot produce enough to feed its population of more than 7 million, it only accounts for almost 8% of the available produce in the market. This is a relatively low amount of contribution considering farming in a region is supposed to be among the main income and goods generator. Little emphasis is put across on ways in which the government of Hong Kong through the establishment of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservative Department (AFCD) is trying to tackle the problem of land unavailability. Trying to reduce the imports in which China is a key player is also on top of their list. This paper will try to bring up the various activities the government through the AFCD, and other bodies have come up with to redevelop agriculture. The next section of the paper will go into detail on how the government is tackling the issue of underdevelopment in agriculture and promotion of local produce, as opposed to imports.
The Situation on the Ground
Although Hong Kong continues to be a world financial centre, agriculture is in small scale due to scarcity of land which in turn dictates the amount and nature of the activities relating to agriculture that will take place in a certain geographic region. The produce from existing farming cannot sustain the current population of Hong Kong as it merely contributes to the economy, it only contributes to 0.1% of GDP which is undoubtedly a drop in the ocean hence they heavily rely on imported products, and this verily eats up into the government’s budget. Imports are mainly from china, which is one of the countries with larger agricultural produce in the globe. (See Table 1).
Likewise; pastoral land is also a crucial issue in Hong Kong as it limits animal husbandry leading to only rearing of pigs and a few of the lucky people rear poultry. In 200, only 10% was received from poultry and 16% from pig rearing in the whole domestic production. Vegetable farming is the common activity as opposed to rice and grain farming which are land intensive and are of relatively low price, as it accounts to the majority of the produce. Fishing is also a well cultivated culture and brings a sizeable harvest and can meet the population’s high demand for sea food. (See table 2).
Most of land in Hong Kong is underdeveloped due to Hong Kong’s steep hills, this pauses a vast impediment to the government to expand land to be used for agriculture. This limits the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s small firms as opposed to their main importer, China.
Most of Hong Kong’s farming takes place in the urban areas, currently about 730 hectares are being utilized while fishing takes up about 1159 hectares.
In general, approximately 5,000 people have resorted to agriculture in Hong Kong and about 11,000 are actively involved in fishing. In addition, others work in retail stores and marketing, transport and logistics for vessels used for fishing.
Provision of New Technologies
As demonstrated in the given table despite the challenges faced by farmers in Hong Kong the government was still optimistic and came up with a dedicated provision to the development in the agricultural sector. The AFCD has brought advanced production techniques, and even introduced sophisticated technologies in the industry and this has vastly improved the quantity and quality of the farmer’s produce, in 2011, the agricultural land use had substantially improved. (Chow, Y. 2012),
The government has come up with a plan to identify species with a lot of potential in the market and can be embraced locally. This will in turn meet the local demand and also increase returns for the farmers who are cultivating the species. There are also efforts to control disease and pests among the crops. Technical issues such as horticulture, managing of the soil to avoid soil erosion and also seed saving are a major influence on the good quality of agriculture, the government has improved these issues for the benefit of the society of Hong Kong as a whole.
Establishment of Accredited Farm Schemes
The introduction of the Accredited Farm scheme with the vegetable Marketing Organization (VMO) by the Agriculture Fishery and Conservative Department (AFCD) was also an initiative by the government to see the marketing of farmer’s products through the VMO so that they can get a decent image and also there produce could be safe and gain a competitive price in the market. The Accredited Farm Scheme ensures protection of the environment against pesticides and its residues, and close monitoring of these farms on their regular usages of pesticides before selling their produce to the various certified outlets. AFCD makes a follow up with the relevant departments to review on the present moratoriums and a government review from time to time. This helps attach immense importance to issues relating to the environment changes and development in Hong Kong. Through this accredited schemes most produce of the farmers is able to reach the mainland due to its compliance to the scheme and hence quality products. Consumer’s confidence is increased because of the safety of the produce that is produced and this encourages consumption of local produce.
Easy Access to Credit Facilities
Although funds are a formidable obstacle to development in this region, AFCD came up with three loan funds under which the local farmers can get loans. The loans are attractive since they are of low interest rates and they are unsecured. With the help of AFCD, farmers in Hong Kong are able to utilize funds allocated to them to improve their technologies and the way of production to have a competitive edge in the market. Some of the uses include; improving fallow land, greenhouse technology and polishing up the irrigation and drainage tools. Through the help of these funds, local farmers are able to access better facilities and techniques that they use in their daily routines and this leads to high productivity and great consumer confidence. . (Government of Hong Kong, 2012)
The fish farmers too are being considered to be in the project of funds from AFCD. The issues to be covered in this loan include; the available purposes of the loans, the purpose must be of relevance, the items used as securities, amount of loan a farmer want to take up to enhance his fishing production and also the process of applying for the loan. If this proposal goes through, fish farmers will have gone way ahead to meet the increasing local sea food demand.
The Invention of Organic Farms
Consequently, organic farming in Hong Kong is gaining popularity as many farmers are turning to it as the better option. Of the land available for farming in Hong Kong 10% of it is used for organic farming and is on the rise from the past decade. As recently shown by (Shay, C. 2010) green houses are also becoming more popular in this region. AFCD has also had a vital role in the development of organic farming by giving the farmers technical support and advice so as to help the local farmers to manage pests, improve horticulture and soil management practices. There have been a few certification conditions that farmers are required to maintain to be able to produce organic produce such as 95% of its produce has to meet the requirements, the farmer must have come up with ways to prevent soil erosion. These conditions were put across by an establishment by the government, The Hong Kong Organic Resources Center (HKORC).
Provision Agriculture Advisories
As revealed by (Government of Hong Kong publication, 2012), several agricultural advisories exist to assist the local farmers with production by improving the way the produce their crops, they mode of marketing and access of credit facilities. It is through these advisories that the local farmers gain a position in the market and are able to compete with the produce from importation. These advisories have helped the government and members of the various agricultural industries to come up policies and initiatives to develop the agricultural sector once and for all. The advisories on fishing set up long term goals for the development of the fishing industry and the committee has submitted a report and the government is working on the recommendations there from.
Implementation of an Animal and Vegetable Scheme
AFCD has launched an animal scheme to help curb the livestock keeping adversities, installation of waste systems for livestock and also to vaccinate the farmer’s livestock in case of an outbreak. The government has also teamed up with non-governmental institutions like the bird watching society to enhance conservation as farming continues to take place. This in turn makes the in the ecological value to go a notch higher. The vegetable farmers are not also left behind as their scheme educates the farmers on producing safe and exceptional quality products and enhancement of extraordinary farming techniques. Through promotion, the government is able to advertise the local farmers; this is achieved through road shows, weekend markets, participation in international food expos and tasting of food festivals. These events have immensely improved the local content and encourage the farmers to perform better and produce quality and net-worth produce.
Introduction of Leisure and Recreational Farming
The government has also encouraged leisure farming among other residents in Hong Kong. AFCD in its quest to encourage leisure farming held a seminar to enlighten the residents. This seminar covered a wide area on techniques in which the farmers could use, teaching of marketing skills and how to manage the leisure firms. In so doing, it gave a platform to those who were willing to try out a different kind of farming and providing various ideas from overseas academicians and representatives. Through the seminar, a lot of residents embraced the idea of leisure farming in which they provided services such as; leasing their farm land, picking of some of their produce from the farms and eco-tourism. The rural landscape and ecology encourages the leisure farming. This has made agriculture in this region to be a part of an exciting discovery of living healthy and encouraging others to protect the environment and educate the rest of the locals on ecological issues that are in their midst. (Shay, C. 2010)
Promotion of Fisheries
The government of Hong Kong publication (2012) reveals that the fishing industry has not been left behind by the government has enforced laws to avoid destructive fishing activities. The accredited scheme is also in this industry, to maintain excellent quality fish and also notable hygiene and health among the marine fish. This has profoundly motivated the fish farmers to provide quality fish to the ever demanding sea-food customers. Most local fisher men operate mainly in Hong Kong waters and are seldom allowed to do off-shore fishing. The government has made provision of loanable funds to the farmers, also, giving them technical assistance and training to better their fishing skills. The introduction of a voluntary accredited scheme has increased the competitiveness of the fisheries in Hong Kong and this is a major boost to the industry.
Reclamation by the Government
The government has come up with the development bureau to engage the public on the land supply strategy. There are efforts to try and reclaim land from the Victoria harbor and the public is supposed to voice their stand. The move will be beneficial for Hong Kong as it will increase the land that will be used for farming which will in turn give the locals employment and sources of income. The government with further consultations with the public and its authorities will come up with ways to reclaim the land.
Redeveloping agriculture in Hong Kong is not absolute due to the limitations of land; the government has tried its best to uphold the culture of agriculture in the region. It has encouraged farming among the residents and hopefully the nightmare of importing will be over in a few years to come. As seen above there are a lot of activities to see that their goal is met and with the residents’ cooperation, Hong Kong may redevelop their agriculture and become a region with safe and quality products.
Organic products are rapidly gaining recognition in the Hong Kong market as most vendors of food stuffs are acting as agents by raising awareness of the organic products. A few of the local restaurants have gone purely local and even started home delivery services for such foods and this has greatly helped to spread the necessity of the products. The government should uphold this culture by frequently advertising on the safety of the organic products produced by the local farmers.
Leisure farming was a great way by the government to engage nearly all the residents. This has opened their eyes onto more ways in which they can protect their environment and also enjoy farming as a recreation activity rather than an economical one. AFCD has played a major role in making sure that agriculture is well developed and serves this region well. Through its many programs it has been able to improve the quality of the products produced by the local farmers and also improve its competitiveness in the market as compared to that of China.
The government can hold events such as international expos on fisheries and feature ecotourism and leisure farming as a whole. These expos attract a large magnitude and through the expos the world can recognize the recreational farming in Hong Kong and the region might start earning foreign exchange through the various techniques on recreational farming.