Hong Kong is 30 years behind Singapore in farming. Why?
Last month, the Hong Kong government proposed setting up an Agri-Park, which may cover an area of 80 hectares of farmland, to boost Hong Kong’s agriculture industry. At the same time, the government is also considering a Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund.
While the concept of sustainable agricultural development has just caught the attention of officials in Hong Kong, it is already deeply rooted in Singapore.
In 2013, Hong Kong produced less than 2 percent of the vegetables the city consumed, while in Singapore, the self-sufficiency rate was 7 percent.
This is not because Hong Kong has less arable land. It’s the opposite. We have 729 hectares of cultivatable land, Singapore only has 675 hectares.
The Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly explains the situation in its latest issue.
Over 90 percent of the food consumed in Singapore comes from imports. In order to diversify its food supply and reduce reliance on imported food, its government has been pushing for “urban farming” since 1986.
Urban farming is a concept that combines advance technology with traditional farming techniques.
Although arable land in Singapore has declined 16 percent in the past decade, the productivity of the three biggest agricultural products — vegetables, eggs and fish — went up by 27 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent respectively, according to data provided by the city state’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.
Focusing on the development of high-tech farming is the chief factor behind the rise in productivity.
The government launched a Food Fund in 2009. The fund aims to help Singapore to become self-sustainable in food production. It has granted S$30 million (US$22.2 million) so far to help farmers develop and upgrade their agricultural techniques.
Singapore’s authority has spared no effort in introducing high-tech farming machines into the country. Agricultural productivity increased with the use of automated planters, automatic irrigation systems and packaging machines.
To further increase its productivity amid the limited land supply, the country is also planning to introduce vertical farming technology.
Also, foreign companies are being encouraged to support the country’s agricultural development. Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has recently set up a farm in Singapore, using advanced technology to produce vegetables, and has become the country’s first licensed indoor farmer.
Back in Hong Kong, nothing much has been achieved other than promoting hydroponics, a method of growing plants by using mineral nutrient solutions and water but without soil.
Another welcome development is the growing popularity of leisure farming. Rather than selling agricultural products, certain farms earn by collecting entrance fees from tourists who get to pick strawberries and other produce during holidays.
Not everyone is sold to this concept, however. Lau Hai-long, a member of the Local Research Community, said the trend has resulted in much waste in the farmland.
He suggested that the government follow some of the farming practices in Taiwan. The agriculture bureau of Kaohsiung city government, for example, has stipulated that 90 percent of the leisure farms must be used for cultivation.
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