A growing number of Hong Kong consumers associate organic products with healthy food, but a recent survey finds that many of them lack the ability to discern whether the products they buy are indeed organic.
The survey, conducted by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Center through random street interviews and published on Tuesday, showed seven in every 10 of the 785 respondents have bought organic products since the start of the year, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier and up 9.2 percent from 10 years ago, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
However, it also found that 56.2 percent of them paid for such products just because the word “organic” was printed on the packages, without making an effort to check whether they are really organic.
In addition, nearly four in 10 respondents said they thought “green” products are the same as organic products.
Jonathan Wong, director of the center, said the results suggested many consumers misunderstand what “organic” means.
Even green products are likely to contain chemical pesticides and only those certified as “organic” are free of chemicals that can have adverse effects on the human body, Wong said.
He also reminded consumers not to be fooled by products that claim to be “natural”, saying most of them were just obtained in wild areas and there is no guarantee that they are not polluted.
Looking for certification labels on the products is the only way to make sure if they are organic or not, he said.
What is indisputable is that the rising demand for organic products has increased their sales and raised their prices.
According to data gathered by the center, Hong Kong consumers spent HK$6.4 billion (US$820.45 million) on organic products in 2016, up HK$700 million from the previous year, and the amount is estimated to surpass HK$7 billion this year.
Organic fruits and vegetables sold in Hong Kong are double or triple the prices of ordinary varieties, compared to a premium of about 30 percent seen overseas.
Wong attributed the high markups to rising health awareness among consumers, adding that the only way to drive prices down is by boosting public education on organic products.
Hong Kong so far has no rules regulating organic products in terms of their specifications and certification, and only adopts international standards.
Meanwhile, growing organic vegetables does not guarantee high profits. An organic farmer revealed that although he is selling his products at four or five times the prices of ordinary ones, he has lost HK$150,000 since last year due to soaring rents and labor costs.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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