Along with the decline of Hong Kong’s agriculture, the seed industry is diminishing, and the number of seed stores has also dropped rapidly. Retail seed shops used to be easily found in the New Territories is now reduced to about 12, while seed agency companies are left with 6-7. Most seed agency companies own a history of over a hundred years and maintain relatively stable foreign markets for wholesale. However, how could local seed shops sustain?
Since most of the local seed shops have their own shops, they could avoid paying expensive rent. The seeds they sell are imported from all over the world. Chan Kwan Kee and Wing Fung Loog also sell retained seeds from local farmers, such as mustard leaf, celery, chrysanthemum, Swiss chard and okra. In addition to potted plants, farm tools and fertilizers, they also sell a wide range of products, such as insecticides and cleaning supplies. Ma Chun Hing Ltd. even sells foods for cats and dogs. Chan Man Hop Seed Co. also does small wholesale business, selling seeds to customers in the US and Canada, since export is more profitable than retail.
In addition, they are catering to emerging markets, including urban farms, schools, holiday farmers, and young people who farm for fun. Apart from selling popular seeds such as salad vegetables, they also promote their business through the media, such as opening their own Facebook pages. In addition, Chan Man Hop even has Filipino helpers buying and sending vegetable seeds to their families for planting and resale. Seed shops believe that when customers choose seeds, they rely on their trust to the seed shops, so building relationships and credibility are important.
After all, they insist on operating mainly because they hope to continue their family business that was passed onto them from the previous generations. Among them, Chan Ping Kee and Chan Kwan Kee are already at the third generation. Chan Man Hop person-in-charge said, “our business volume is still enough to feed the family, and it falls short of the best but is better than the worst, so we will continue.” Of course, they also have an undertaking to agriculture. Chan Kwan Kee person-in-charge said, “being the source in an agricultural production line, seeds are the smallest yet the most important.”
Text and Photos: Joanna Wong (March 2021)
Acknowledgement: Chan Kwan Kee, Chan Ping Kee, Wing Fung Loog, Ma Chun Hing Ltd., Chan Man Hop Seed Co., Clover Seed Co., Ltd.