Overview of Hong Kong’s Agricultural History
Hong Kong’s agriculture has long been dominated by rice to feed the residents.
Japanese invasion of China
Beginning of the Second World War
- The War destroyed vegetable cultivation.
- The Japanese army requisitioned several large private farms to grow vegetables and grains for their food.
Hong Kong during the Japanese Occupation
Chinese Civil War
Vegetable Marketing Organization was established to build a vegetable marketing system.
- A large number of mainlanders came to Hong Kong, many of whom were engaged in gardening or animal husbandry, so they chose to live in the New Territories, rent land or reclaim wasteland from the aborigines, and continue their old skills. This promoted the transformation of local agriculture.
- After the war, Hong Kong’s economy developed steadily, and people’s living standards improved, leading to the gradual emergence of high-end vegetable markets.
- The Government worked on selecting and retaining seeds of crops, and built 10 experimental farms/agricultural testing grounds in Castle Peak, Sheung Shui, Tai Long, Ta Kwu Ling, Sai Kung, Tai Mo Shan, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Tung Chung and Mui Wo, etc., where seed warehouses were set up to store seeds with all-weather air-conditioning equipment, and responsible personnel conducted seed germination tests on a regular basis.
- A vegetable marketing system was established.
- In the 1950s and 1960s, Sino-British diplomatic relations were unstable, and the Government tended to support local agriculture.
- From the 1950s to the 1970s, the New Territories’ vegetables were well-known, and local seed shops were prosperous, in which most of them were opened by Chaozhou people.
The Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co-Operative Societies (FEDVMCS) was established.
Great Leap Forward
- Many young indigenous inhabitants in the New Territories emigrated to Europe and abandoned their rice fields.
- Hong Kong opened up its rice market, importing a large quantity of Southeast Asian rice at low price.
- The Agriculture and Fisheries Department held an agricultural product exhibition.
- Organic farming movement was launched.
- The local seed market was the most prosperous in the 1960s to early 1980s.
“Hong Kong Farmers”, a journal of the Agriculture and Fisheries Department was published.
- Vegetables and flowers had replaced rice with higher returns and become a mainstream of Hong Kong cultivation.
- Sino-British diplomatic relations resumed, and the Government suspended building reservoirs and reduced support for local agriculture.
New town development, led by Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun.
Reform and Opening-up
- Urbanization in the New Territories, causing the reduction of farmland.
- The real estate developers were hoarding farmland, and the abandoned farmland had increased to more than 1,000 hectares; the development of small houses and low-density housing on agricultural land had accelerated.
- The numbers of open parking lots and storage yards built on agricultural land have increased significantly, eroding rural agricultural land in the New Territories.
- 5 experimental farms of AFCD were left.
- The lack of local labour in agriculture had led to rising wages as well as vegetable costs.
- China’s Reform and Opening-Up attracted local farmers to rent farmland in the mainland to grow vegetables, and then transport the agricultural products back to Hong Kong for sales. At the same time, cheap vegetables from the mainland flooded into Hong Kong.
- Local agriculture has shifted to growing high-quality fresh vegetables.
- Production facilities have become mechanized and modernized, and new varieties and cultivation techniques are introduced from all over the world.
Melhado Case happened, causing a large amount of farmland converted into open parking lots or storage yards.
Sino-British Joint Statement
Vegetable poisoning incidents
Agricultural Land Rehabilitation Scheme
Produce Green Foundation was established as the first local organic farm.
- Following the trend of local vegetable production, China’s Reform and Opening-Up has caused a gradual decline in the local seed industry, but brought them a huge mainland market.
- Owing to an increasing integration between the mainland China and the world, the re-export trade of traditional vegetable seeds has shrunk; only some foreign vegetable seeds still take an advantage.
Town planning policy “Town Planning Ordinance” was amended to protect agricultural land for agricultural use.
AFCD and the Vegetable Marketing Office (VMO) implemented the “Accredited Farm Scheme” to monitor the use of pesticides, ensure the safety of quality vegetables, and promote the adoption of good horticultural practice and environmentally friendly production.
Hong Kong Organic Farm Association
Hong Kong was returned to China PRC.
The VMO established the Premium Vegetable Packaging (PVS) Operation to sell and promote local agricultural products to the public.
Hong Kong Organic Farming Association (now Sustainable Ecological Ethical Development Foundation) was established.
- AFCD stopped its work of retaining seeds, and now only Tai Long Experimental Farm is left.
- Illegal development cases continue.
- Organic agriculture and leisure agriculture have gradually developed.
- Tai Wo and Central Star Ferry Farmers’ Market have become fixed sales points of organic agricultural products for local organic farmers.
- More and more young people increase their interest in agriculture and even devote themselves to agriculture.
- The numbers of farms and farmers had decreased by about 200 and 700 respectively from 2001 to 2013, but the number of organic farms has risen from 106 initially to 225 in recent years, an increase of more than 100%.
- As of mid-2013, Hong Kong’s overall agricultural land and active agricultural land areas were 4,523 and 729 hectares respectively. The vegetable self-sufficiency rate was only 2%. There were about 3,794 hectares of abandoned agricultural land, accounting for more than 80% of the agricultural land area.
- Until August 2014, the number of organic farms in Hong Kong is estimated to be 514.
- In 2016, the total import and export value of various seeds (including flowers, etc.) was 770 million Hong Kong dollars.
- In addition to compiling the “A Guide to Hong Kong Leisure Farms”, the government has also launched the “Hong Kong Leisure Farm” mobile app for citizens to download for free, promoting local leisure farms.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Department was renamed as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
The AFCD has introduced the “Organic Farming Conversion Scheme (OFCS)” and formulated the “Organic Farming Conversion Scheme” to assist conventional farmers to switch to organic farming and provide them with technical support.
AFCD stopped its work of retaining seeds, and now only Tai Long Experimental Farm is left.
Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre Certification Limited was established. Being the first local organic certification body, it has developed a local organic production and processing standard and a certification system to ensure that the “production methods” meet the organic standard.
Organic Community Grower Group was established by FEDVMCS and AFCD to assist in handling matters related to organic certification, train farmers on the concept of organic farming, and develop community-based promotion and marketing strategies to promote the development of organic farming.
Mapopo Community Farm was established.
Choi Yuen Village Incident
AFCD’s Controlled Environment Hydroponic Research and Development Centre was established.
“New Agricultural Policy: Sustainable Agricultural Development in Hong Kong” consultant document was launched.
The Planning Department reviewed the feasibility of hydroponic farming in industrial buildings under the “Town Planning Ordinance”.
“Policy Address” carried out the New Agricultural Policy.
Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, books, Produce Green Foundation, online resources