Home-grown fruit and vegetables in Hong Kong are not easy to find? I say there is as much ‘local’ food in Kowloon as in Kent

Since moving back to his native UK from Hong Kong, fellow Post columnist and former deputy editor Cliff Buddle has been chronicling his new life in the county of Kent and drawing contrasts between his corner of Britain and today’s Hong Kong.

It seems the grass is greener on his side.

In his latest column, he extols the joys of the UK’s home-grown produce, specifically that from his garden’s fruit trees and from the abundance of neighbourhood farms, whose owners leave excess produce on unattended carts, trusting locals to purchase them in an honour system.

He also says: “Home-grown fruit and veg is not easy to find in Hong Kong.”

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Well, that depends on how one defines home-grown. Yes, most of our food comes from over the border in mainland China. But the mainland is basically next door. A lot of our food comes from produce and meat farms in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong. Some would say that’s pretty much eating local.

Many Hong Kong residents still assume that produce from the mainland is either inferior, fake or produced using cheap, unhealthy methods.

Yet that’s what we mostly eat on a daily basis – unless you can afford only imported goods at pricey gourmet grocers, which goes against all eco-ideals of local eating.

Staff members sort locally grown vegetables at the Mapopo Community Farm in Fanling, Hong Kong on March 18, 2020. Photo: AFP

It is worth noting that some of our freshest organic vegetables are actually farmed in the Pearl River Delta, where land is available and cheap. It is also how most local goods can be made available at such low prices and with such tiny carbon footprints.

Even if those farmers were in Hong Kong, they wouldn’t be able to just leave their choi sum on a cart with a coin box for everyone to self-pay. We don’t have the luxury of such bucolic behaviour.

Hong Kong is a city of over 7 million citizens. The population density here is close to 7,000 people per square kilometre. Kent, the county in which Cliff now lives, has fewer than 500 people per square kilometre.

Urban farmers from Rooftop Republic harvest vegetables grown on a rooftop farm on top of the 150-metre-tall Bank of America tower in Hong Kong on April 9, 2021. Photo: AFP

It is untenable to assume we can all buy fruit and veg grown in Lantau, Lamma or Yuen Long. If that’s your definition of home-grown, then I think you’re a little too stuck on semantics. It would be just as silly to think Londoners can grow all their produce within the city’s metropolitan area.

I believe Hong Kong, as a major municipality, is probably among the most locavore and sustainable of big cities. Where other municipalities have weekly farmers’ markets, we have even more ubiquitous wet markets serving exactly the same purpose.

Can we do better at eating local and sustainable? Sure – we could better explore city gardens and rooftop farms, but I would argue there is as much home-grown food in Kowloon as in Kent.


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