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Government launches public consultation on new agricultural policy (with video)
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     The Government today (December 29) released a public consultation document entitled "The New Agricultural Policy: Sustainable Agricultural Development in Hong Kong", seeking public views on a new policy to adopt a more proactive approach towards the modernisation and sustainable development of local agriculture. The consultation exercise will end on March 31, 2015.

     The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, said at a press conference that in recognition of the benefits of sustainable agriculture to society and the growing aspirations of citizens favouring the balanced development of Hong Kong, the Government sees a strong case to adopt a more proactive policy towards the modernisation and sustainable development of local agriculture, with a view to facilitating local production of good quality fresh agricultural produce and development of related industries to maximise its contributions to the well-being of society.@
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     Dr Ko said, "The benefits of sustaining agricultural development in Hong Kong include diversifying our food supply and reducing our reliance on imported food, whilst meeting consumers' aspirations and demand for food with a high safety standard.

     "In addition, agricultural development will provide job opportunities. Not only will it provide jobs to lesser-skilled workers, it will as well bring opportunities to young people who aspire to develop a career in modern agriculture.

     "We believe that sustainable development of agriculture will also encourage the productive use of land, contributing to the integration of urban and rural developments, and help preserve the visual appearance and improve sanitary conditions of the rural environment. Benefits are also seen in terms of conservation of natural resources, enrichment of biodiversity and contribution to the reduction of the carbon footprint in the food supply chain to a certain extent."

     Dr Ko pointed out that local agriculture has a long history in Hong Kong. However, the local agricultural industry has been diminishing in the course of time as Hong Kong moves towards a predominantly urbanised and service-oriented economy. The operation of market forces led to changes in the supply of and the demand for local agricultural produce.

     Without conscious action and suitable support from the Government, the trend might continue with the industry diminishing further to the point of taking away the positive impacts that local agriculture could otherwise bring to the overall well-being of society.

     The proposed new policy towards the modernisation and sustainable development of local agriculture has to be underpinned by appropriate supportive measures in order to facilitate migration towards the desired outcome. Building on the foundation of the prevailing programmes and measures that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has been implementing to support the industry, and taking into account the challenges and difficulties faced by the industry, the Government proposes introducing a package of new measures along the following directions:
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(1) Exploring the feasibility of establishing an Agri-Park:

     The Agri-Park would be intended for admitting farmers who are engaged in crop farming and in commercial production. It would serve as a base for experimenting with new agricultural practices for commercial production, and promoting application of advances in technology to agricultural uses, thereby fortifying the development and adoption of modern and diversified production methods in local farms.

     The establishment of the Agri-Park would aim to facilitate knowledge transfer in agricultural science and agro-business management with a view to enhancing productivity; increase local agricultural production to meet public demand for safe and fresh produce; demonstrate how best fallow agricultural land could be rehabilitated; and accommodate eligible farmers displaced by Government land development projects for re-establishing their farms within the Agri-Park.

     In identifying the potential site for establishing the park, the Government would look for fallow farmland zoned "Agriculture", and part of it may also be lots under active farming. The site is preliminarily estimated to be of a size ranging from 70 hectares to 80 hectares in order to achieve economy of scale and ensure that the Agri-Park would be viable in achieving its aims.

     If this initiative is to be taken forward, the Government would acquire through land resumption pursuant to the Lands Resumption Ordinance (Cap. 124) the lots required for setting up the Agri-Park and put it under the management of the AFCD.
      
(2) Considering the establishment of a Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund (SADF):

     The SADF would aim to provide financial support for promoting research and development for application of technology in agricultural production, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, enhancing manpower training, improving agricultural infrastructure and strengthening marketing and branding of local agricultural produce, as well as assisting individual farmers to modernise their farming equipment and facilities.

(3) Strengthening the support that is being provided to help farmers move up the value chain, including the marketing of their products and brand building.

(4) Promoting other auxiliary activities related to agriculture such as leisure farming and educational activities for students and citizens.

     "Developing local agriculture will bring economic benefits to Hong Kong, as well as positive impacts on the overall well-being of society. We look forward to seeing active public participation in expressing views on the consultation document.

     "Taking into account the feedback received during the consultation, the Government will develop the proposals and devise the implementation plan subject to resource availability and approval by the relevant authorities," Dr Ko said.
 
     The consultation document is available for collection at District Offices and may be downloaded from the websites of the Food and Health Bureau (www.fhb.gov.hk) or the AFCD (www.afcd.gov.hk). Members of the public can send in their views on or before March 31, 2015, by email (agri_policy@afcd.gov.hk), by post (Agriculture Branch, AFCD, 7/F, Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices, 303 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong), or by fax (2152 0319).

Ends/Monday, December 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:58

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