The Hong Kong government announced in December its intention to review its agricultural policy.
It laid out four dimensions along which it will push for modernization and sustainable development in the local agricultural industry.
These are: setting up an agripark, considering a sustainable agricultural development fund, increasing support to local farmers and promoting activities related to the industry.
I was quite speechless when I received the consultation document.
Agricultural development is what the government should have dealt with a long time ago. Still, we are happy it finally has a plan to do it.
However, the consultation document shows the authorities are only scratching the surface and avoiding key structural problems, such as food self-sufficiency and food safety.
The document clearly notes that “the inherent constraints in land ownership” are “hindering the prospect of improving and diversifying farm production”.
It also shows there are now more than 3,000 hectares of inactive arable land, accounting for over 80 percent of total agricultural land in Hong Kong.
The document indicates our government is fully aware of the core problem in the industry; nevertheless, not a word is said about how to remove that hindrance.
It also failed to set any specific agricultural targets, let alone bringing up the possibility of a tax on vacant arable land and other administrative procedures, such as redefining the uses of land.
In that light, it is hard to believe that the government has the determination to push for sustainable development in the agricultural industry.
The authorities simply lack a long-term vision in their policy-making process.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is holding two more consultation sessions, one on Wednesday in Tung Chung and another on Thursday in Yuen Long.
I hope the government can get to the bottom of the issues and discuss pragmatic measures to truly ensure a sustainable model for the agricultural industry.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 23.
Translation by Betsy Tse
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