SEE's opening remarks on food safety and environmental hygiene at LegCo Finance Committee special meeting
Chairman and Honourable Members,
One of the responsibilities of the Environment and Ecology Bureau (EEB) is to ensure food safety and environmental hygiene as well as to promote the sustainable development of the local agriculture and fisheries industry.
In the 2023-24 Estimates, about $11.83 billion is earmarked for recurrent expenditure in the policy portfolio of "Environment and Food", representing an increase of about $320 million (2.7 per cent) over the previous year and accounting for 2.1 per cent of the recurrent expenditure of government.
Stepping up efforts to improve environmental hygiene
The EEB provides major support to the work of the District Matters Co-ordination Task Force, which includes the launch of the Government Programme on Tackling Hygiene Black Spots in mid-August 2022. So far, government departments have worked together to tackle more than 600 hygiene blackspots over the territory with remarkable results. The departments will continue to make efforts to meet the target of removing at least 75 per cent of some 600 hygiene blackspots identified by various departments by end-2023 as set out in the 2022 Policy Address.
As for the problem of rodent infestation, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has taken a series of more targeted measures, including setting up overnight rodent control roving teams, using new technologies and tools, etc. We launched the "Cross-sectoral Territory-wide Anti-rodent Action" at the end of last year to promote cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary, and public participation in anti-rodent work. Our anti-rodent work has achieved initial results. In the second half of 2022, the number of live rodent caught by the FEHD over the territory increased by about 50 per cent as compared to the same period of 2021. The Government will continue to make concerted efforts with the relevant sectors to meet the target of reducing the number of priority rodent blackspots at least by half by end-2023 as set out in the 2022 Policy Address.
Regarding shop front extension (SFE), the joint enforcement mode adopted by the FEHD and the Hong Kong Police Force has been extended to cover the whole territory since October 2022. More than 600 joint operations have been conducted, with marked improvement in the situation of SFE in various districts.
Meanwhile, we are conducting a comprehensive review on the existing statutory powers and penalties regarding environmental hygiene. We have completed the public consultation on the first-stage legislative proposal of increasing the fixed penalty level, and will introduce the relevant legislative amendment proposals into the LegCo shortly. We are, at the same time, studying the second-stage legislative amendment proposals which will be put forward for discussion around mid-2023 as planned.
New public markets and Market Modernisation Programme (MMP)
We are actively taking forward various new market projects. Among them, Sunlight Market in Tung Chung was commissioned on March 24. As for the MMP, the overhauled Aberdeen Market will soon reopen, and the overhaul works for Lai Wan Market has commenced. The remaining overhaul or redevelopment projects are at different planning stages. We will submit funding application to the LegCo in a timely manner in accordance with the relevant procedures.
We are reviewing and updating by phases the legislation relating to additives in food to further enhance food safety. The first phase of the review covers the standards for preservatives and antioxidants in food. We will brief the Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene of the LegCo on the proposed amendments in May and launch a public consultation thereafter.
Agriculture and fisheries development
The Government has attached importance to the local agriculture and fisheries industries and is committed to promoting their modernisation and sustainable development. We support the sector in terms of application of advanced technology and intensification of production, as well as helping it seize the opportunities arising from the Greater Bay Area development. We are consulting the sector on the blueprint for the sustainable development of agriculture and fisheries and will strive to brief the LegCo on the content of the blueprint within 2023.
On the fisheries front, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) plans to designate four new fish culture zones with a total sea area of about 600 hectares and set up deep sea cages at suitable locations for renting to fisheries associations/organisations. The local mariculture production is expected to increase by 100 per cent in five years, from the current average of about 900 tonnes to about 1 800 tonnes per year.
On the agriculture front, the AFCD will continue to implement various existing measures under the New Agriculture Policy. Phase 1 of the Agricultural Park in Kwu Tung South has commenced operation in phases since late 2022. The industry has been conducting a consultancy study on the building design guidelines for multi-storey livestock farms with financial support of the Government.
We have enhanced financial and technical support to the agriculture and fisheries industries. The separate injections of $500 million each into the Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund and the Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund, as well as the expanded coverage and streamlined application procedures could facilitate fishermen and farmers in obtaining more funding for procuring modernised equipment and facilities for production and promoting other sustainable development projects in a more expeditious manner.
The Government is preparing for legislative amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance (Cap. 169) and other measures to further protect animal welfare. We are pressing ahead with the preparation work, with a view to introducing the legislative proposals into the LegCo for consideration as soon as possible.
Chairman, my colleagues and I are happy to answer questions from Members.
Ends/Thursday, April 13, 2023
Issued at HKT 13:11
Issued at HKT 13:11