Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ20: Local agricultural development

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Fernando Cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     According to the estimates released by the Government at the end of 2011, agricultural land accounted for about 6.1% of the total land area in Hong Kong, i.e. about 6 700 hectares, among which 3 292 hectares of land in the New Territories were covered by statutory plans and zoned for "agricultural" use (representing approximately 10.5% of the total land area in the New Territories covered by statutory plans). The current agricultural policy is to "follow the general policy framework of free market. Except where social considerations are overriding, the allocation of resources in the economy is left to market forces with minimal government intervention". In recent years, as many pieces of agricultural land in the New Territories have been left derelict after acquisition by property developers, some agricultural land has become container yards or vehicle parks, or has been turned into other land uses, and coupled with the Government's plan to develop Northeast and North New Territories, the area of agricultural land for farming has been dwindling and the agriculture industry is shrinking continuously. The market share of locally produced vegetables has dropped from 30% in the 1990s to 2.3% in 2011.  The relevant authorities on the Mainland, on the contrary, promulgated vegetable supply assurance measures in 2010, and requested large cities to set a minimum area of agricultural land designated for vegetable production so as to enhance self-sufficiency. Furthermore, Taiwan has adopted "a healthy, efficient and sustainable development" as an objective of its agricultural policy and has formulated corresponding measures to help the agricultural sector. Some members of the agriculture industry have pointed out that, due to repeated problems with food products from the Mainland in recent years, quite a number of Hong Kong people practise organic farming and purchase organic agricultural products, and such people also have confidence in and a demand for local agricultural products. In addition, developing the agriculture industry can also enhance diversity of local industries, create employment opportunities, maintain ecological balance and facilitate the development of biological diversity. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities will review the existing principle of free market playing a leading role and formulate afresh a "healthy and sustainable" agricultural policy;

(b) as some farmers have pointed out that the agricultural land in the New Territories has continuously been acquired and hoarded by property developers, resulting in idling of and reduction in agricultural land, whether the authorities have given up development of the agriculture industry;

(c) given that quite a number of cities and countries have set targets on the market shares of local agricultural products (e.g. in the case of Shanghai, the minimum assured supply of locally produced vegetables will be 30% in 2020), whether the authorities have formulated such a target; if they have not, of the reasons for that;

(d) of the respective areas of agricultural land used for producing vegetables, flowers, miscellaneous crops and fruits, and the respective market shares of the such agricultural products produced each year between 1997-1998 and 2011-2012 (set out in Table 1);

(e) of the respective numbers of applications for rezoning agricultural land received and approved by the Town Planning Board (set out in Table 2), the total area involved and the total amount of additional land premium involved in approved cases each year between 1997-1998 and 2011-2012; and

(f) of the respective number of farms in Hong Kong and the number of people working in such farms each year between 1997-1998 and 2011-2012 (set out in Table 3)?



     The Government has been providing staunch support for local fisheries and agricultural development. For agriculture as related to this question, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) actively encourages and supports local farmers to develop organic farming. Through the Organic Farming Support Service, the Department provides technical advice and support to those farmers who wish to switch to organic farming from traditional farming.  In addition, AFCD promotes the production and sale of local organic agricultural products jointly with the Vegetable Marketing Organisation (VMO) and the Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co-operative Societies, Ltd.  As at the end of December 2012, 203 farms participate in the Organic Farming Support Service, producing about five tonnes of organic agricultural products each day for the local market. At present, there are more than 37 organic vegetable retail outlets under the VMO marketing network, including large supermarkets, shops in MTR stations, health food stores and the Lions Nature Education Centre outlet at Tsiu Hang, Sai Kung, etc.  Besides, AFCD supports the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre in its endeavours to educate the public on organic farming and promote the certification of organic products.

     AFCD also organises from time to time talks and on-farm demonstrations for farmers, briefing them on improved varieties of agricultural products and new farming techniques. Quality produce developed in recent years include red flesh rock melon, seedless water melon, yellow flesh water melon, long horn pepper, round eggplant, potato and organic strawberry, etc.

     The Government has also actively assisted the industry in developing quality brand names. At present, 263 vegetable farms in the territory have participated in the Accredited Farm Scheme. AFCD helps the industry set up weekend farmers' markets and organises large-scale carnivals, such as the annual FarmFest which attracts over 100 participating local farmers and fishermen and more than 100,000 visitors. These events have helped showcase local agricultural and fishery products to the wider public, in the interest of promoting local brand names.

     Moreover, the VMO has since 1988-89 set up the Agricultural Development Fund with funding derived from its operating profits. The Fund enables AFCD and the farming industry to launch agricultural development programmes. Apart from the above-mentioned programmes and activities, notable examples include the Controlled Environment Agriculture and Hydroponic technology which is recently introduced for use in local farming. Between 2007 and 2011, the Fund has provided about $130 million for funding projects. About $200 million is currently available under the Fund.

     AFCD is also administering three loan funds (including the Kadoorie Agriculture Aid Loan Fund; the J. E. Joseph Trust Fund; and the Vegetable Marketing Organisation Loan Fund) which provide loans to farmers for farm development and operation. The total accumulated deposit under the three Funds now stands at $45 million. These Funds are noted for their user-friendly application procedures, low interest rates, capacity to provide unsecure loans up to $130,000, and flexible repayment period. Between 2007 and 2011, loans of nearly $40 million had been offered to 414 farmers under the three Funds.

     In recent years, AFCD has published and distributed "A Guide to Hong Kong Leisure Farms" to promote leisure farming. An interactive webpage on leisure farms ( has also been promulgated for use by members of the public who are interested in visiting the diverse range of leisure farms in Hong Kong.  By facilitating diversification, this contributes to the sustainable development of the local farming industry.  

     The Government will carry on with its efforts on the above fronts to support the sustainable development of the local farming industry.  

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:  

(a) It is the Government's existing policy to facilitate agricultural development through the provision of basic infrastructure and technical support, as well as low interest loans to farmers. At the same time, we make full use of the Agricultural Development Fund under the VMO to facilitate the further development of local agriculture, enhance the productivity and business viability of the industry, develop modern and environmental-friendly farming technologies with emphasis on preservation of natural resources and the agricultural ecology, thereby helping to produce quality and high-value agricultural products that are safe for consumption. The Government will continue to adopt the above measures for supporting the sustainable development of the local farming industry.

(b) Most agricultural land leases in Hong Kong were granted in early years. Unlike land leases granted for residential, commercial or other building developments in recent years for which a building covenant is stipulated, generally speaking, the agricultural land leases do not contain provisions requiring the owners to put the land to use and not to leave it idle, and free transaction is not prohibited.  There will be no contravention as long as the use of the land is in compliance with the relevant legislation and lease conditions.

     To assist farmers who wish to engage in farming, AFCD plays a facilitative role by matching prospective tenants with the landowners upon learning that there are land owners who intend to rent out their agricultural land. The farmers and landowners freely enter into tenancy agreements after negotiations. Ultimately it is for the landowners to decide whether or not to rent out their land for agricultural use. Over the past five years (2007 to 2011), AFCD had assisted 73 farmers in identifying land for agricultural rehabilitation covering a total area of about 11.1 hectares.

(c) In keeping with the free-market principle, the Government does not set any targets for local agricultural production. Nor does the Government provide any direct financial subsidy to the sector or protect the price level of local agricultural products. The Government will continue to go about supporting the sustainable development of local agriculture through the provision of basic infrastructure and technical support, as well as low interest loans.

     Primary production (including agriculture, fisheries, mining and quarrying) is insignificant in Hong Kong in terms of its share of the GDP and total employment, as the city is a predominantly urban economy. As such, redevelopment of the agricultural industry by a significant scale as a means to raise the share of local produce in local food supply does not appear to be a practicable proposition.  Nonetheless, the Government will continue to render support to those who intend to engage in agricultural production and promote the sustainable development of the local agricultural industry through the provision of infrastructure, technical support and low-interest loans.

(d) Statistics showing the area of land used for the production of vegetable, flower, field crop and orchard from 1997 to 2012 are set out in Table 4.

     Statistics showing the percentage of locally-produced vegetables and fruits in the overall supply of the respective products from 1997 to 2011 are set out in Table 5. (Note: The percentages of flowers and field crops are not available since the Government does not keep separate breakdowns for them in our production statistics.)

(e) Between 1997 and 2012, the Town Planning Board (TPB) processed a total of 55 applications for rezoning land in the "Agriculture" ("AGR") zone to other land uses. Of these applications, 11 were approved mainly for uses including residential, village type development, Government, institution or community uses, and open storage, etc. They involve about 15.4 hectares of land in total.  During the same period, TPB processed a total of 1 734 applications for planning permission involving sites within "AGR" zone (excluding those applications involving sites that straddle other land use zones). Among them, 1 070 applications were approved, mainly for the New Territories Exempted House development, Government, institution or community uses, recreational use and temporary uses, etc.  Given the large number of applications in question and duplication of sites under application, we cannot provide relevant statistics on the total area involved.  

     Where a lot owner applies for lease modification or land exchange to implement the use approved by TPB, the Government will impose suitable conditions when granting approval, including a full market premium payable. It should be noted that for cases involving rezoning or planning permission approved by TPB, the owners concerned may not necessarily submit application to the Lands Department (LandsD) for lease modification or land exchange immediately or within a short period of time.  

     A summary of the lease modification or land exchange transactions executed and registered in the Land Registry is available on LandsD's website ( As LandsD does not maintain a list of land transactions or relevant statistics based on the original uses, statistical data of cases involving agricultural land are not available.

     The number of applications for rezoning and planning permission involving "AGR" zone broken down by year are listed in Table 6.

(f) The number of farms engaged in crop production, the number of organic farms and the number of farmers engaged in crop production from 2001 to 2012 are set out in Table 7. (Note: Statistics from 1997 to 2000, and the number of farmers who own the farms and the number of farm employees, are not available since the Government did not collect such statistics at the material time.)

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:20


Print this page