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LCQ13: Assisting farmers in constructing agricultural structures
     Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):
     It is learnt that some farmers need to construct agricultural structures due to agricultural production needs or reprovisioning of their farms (as their farms have been affected by government development projects). However, the time taken by the Government to process the relevant applications is very long, and the relevant building requirements lead to high construction costs. In addition, as the tenancy periods of some agricultural land only last for one to two years, some farmers have been deterred from making the investment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the government departments involved in processing applications for constructing agricultural structures on private agricultural land, and the procedure for handling such applications; whether such government departments have drawn up performance pledges in respect of the deadline for giving a reply to the applicant;
(2) of the total number of applications received by the Government in the past four years and this year (up to May) for construction of agricultural structures, and set out in the table below a breakdown by the vetting and approval time taken as provided in the table below; among such applications, the longest and shortest vetting and approval time taken, as well as the respective numbers of such applications in which the agricultural structure to be constructed will (a) have a roofed-over area (i) exceeding and (ii) not exceeding 92.9 square metres (1 000 square feet), and (b) be of a height of (i) more than and (ii) a single storey and not more than 4.57 metres; the number of such applications still being processed;
Year The vetting and approval time taken Still
Less than 1 year 1 year to less than 2 years 2 years to
less than
3 years
3 years to
less than 4 years
4 years to less than 5 years 5 years or more
(up to May)

(3) of the new measures in place to assist farmers in constructing needed agricultural structures within a reasonable vetting and approval time and at a reasonable construction cost, including whether it will (i) introduce shared agricultural structure plans in the near future, and (ii) designate suitable districts for farmers to construct agricultural structures in the long run; and
(4) as some farmers have relayed that the compensation obtained for the reprovisioning of the licensed structures of their original farms is much lower than the construction costs required for new structures, making them face the prospect of closing down, whether it knows the respective current costs for (i) appointing a building contractor and a T2 competent person as required and (ii) constructing an agricultural structure, as well as the difference between such costs and the compensation to be obtained for clearance of licensed agricultural structures and surveyed domestic squatter structures; whether it will review the compensation mechanism so that farmers can receive adequate compensation for meeting the costs of constructing new agricultural structures?



     Having consulted the Development Bureau, the reply to the question is as follows:

(1) Generally speaking, agricultural structures include greenhouses, livestock sheds, hatcheries, fish ponds, storage rooms, etc. A farmer who needs to construct agricultural structures on one's private agricultural land should apply to the Lands Department (LandsD) for a Letter of Approval for Agricultural Structures (Letter of Approval). To facilitate farmers, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) will receive applications on behalf of the LandsD, visit farms concerned for better understanding of the case and provide advice to the LandsD on whether such agricultural facilities are genuinely necessary for the farming operations, etc. In general, upon receiving applications for agricultural structures, the AFCD will evaluate the cases and refer them to the LandsD for consideration within one month. If the case is supported by the AFCD, the LandsD will consult relevant government departments (mainly the Planning Department and the Environmental Protection Department) on matters in relation to planning and environmental protection, etc. If the departments have no adverse comments, the LandsD will consider granting the Letter of Approval to the applicant. Depending on individual circumstances, the LandsD generally completes the vetting of a simple case within four months upon receiving the application. For complicated cases, such as those involving land ownership or boundary issues, the LandsD and the AFCD will communicate with the applicants and relevant departments to explore solutions, with a view to completing the processing of viable cases within reasonable time.

(2) Between 2018 and May 2022, the statistics on applications for Letters of Approval for erecting agricultural structures on private agricultural land processed by the LandsD are tabulated as follows:
(Note 1)
Number of applications received Number of applications approved
(Note 2 and 4)
Number of applications rejected/ withdrawn
(Note 3 and 4)
2018 63 24 25
2019 31 18 9
2020 28 9 10
2021 33 7 20
(as of May)
14 2 11

(3) Generally speaking, individual farmers would determine the design and parameters of the agricultural structures suitable for their farms, according to their farming needs, scale of the farms and actual modes of operation, etc. Since agricultural structures form part of a farm, the Government does not consider it appropriate to designate standalone areas for agricultural structures. Regarding the suggestion on introducing shared plans for agricultural structures, the AFCD has all long been exploring the feasibility of the concept with the trade. If the trade considers such suggestion feasible and necessary, it can apply to the Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund for relevant funding and receive technical support.

(4) For eligible farmers affected by government land resumption and/or clearance projects, they may be provided by the LandsD with various relevant ex-gratia allowances (EGAs) according to existing mechanism. In particular, EGAs relevant to the relocation or loss of agricultural structures and relevant hardware facilities include: "EGA for qualifying agricultural buildings on private land", which mainly assists farmers in meeting the cost of relocating the agricultural structures; "EGA for miscellaneous permanent improvements to farms", which mainly covers losses relating to farm installations and fixtures; "EGA for farm equipment and implements", which mainly covers loss relating to farming equipment and tools. The Government will assess the relevant EGAs having regard to the type, quantity, size and applicable standard allowance rates of the facilities involved. The amount of relevant allowances are determined and adjusted with reference to the construction cost, market value and pricing trend of the relevant facilities, etc., according to the mechanism. In addition, eligible farmers may apply for the "disturbance allowance for cultivators" for meeting the cost of land preparation when re-establishing elsewhere and the loss of income in the interim; the "EGA for crops" (also known as "crop compensation") if there is loss of crops; and the "EGA for pig and poultry farmers" for loss of business, for farmers legally operating pig and poultry farms on private agricultural land. Depending on the circumstances of individual farmers, they may apply for relevant EGAs respectively for various affected aspects (i.e. they may apply for one or more of the above EGAs).

     Furthermore, if farmers have financial needs when constructing agricultural structures, the AFCD will provide eligible farmers with low-interest loans under the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Loan Fund, the J.E. Joseph Trust Fund and the Vegetable Marketing Organization Loan Fund, etc, for development and working capital, including costs of constructing agricultural structures, etc.  

     As for the costs of constructing agricultural structures, they may vary according to the scale of the structure, building materials, structural design, condition of land situated on and environmental factors, etc. For single-storey (not taller than 4.57 metres) agricultural structures with area greater than 1 000 square feet, the Government listened to the views expressed by the trade in the past, and understood the concerns of the trade on the supervisory requirement and related costs. After consideration, the Buildings Department simplified relevant requirements last year. If the agricultural structure does not involve complicated structural design, the applicant would only need to employ one building contractor and one Technically Competent Person of Grade T2 to be responsible for constructing the entire structure, and upon completion of the construction works, submit a Construction Completion Report, to confirm that the entire structure is constructed according to the relevant technical requirements, and is no longer required to employ one more Registered Professional Engineer to supervise the work. The measure was meant to be a pragmatic arrangement and respond to the concerns of the trade, on the pre-requisite that the safety of structures is ensured.

     The Government will continue to maintain communication with the trade and keep in view the various existing supporting measures to farmers, with a view to providing appropriate assistance as far as practicable.

Note 1: The applications approved and rejected/withdrawn may not correspond to the applications received during the same year.

Note 2: There may be more than one structure proposed to be constructed under each application. The LandsD does not compile statistics on the height and area of structures proposed to be constructed under each application.

Note 3: Reasons for cases rejected include applicants failing to provide sufficient information, unauthorised structure(s) existed on site under application, or the applicant failing to fulfil planning requirements, etc.

Note 4: The processing time of Letter of Approval depends on the circumstances of each case and the issues involved. The LandsD does not compile statistics on processing time.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:36
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