Leave things as they are, some stall-holders say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2002, 12:00am

Plans to improve hygiene in wet markets are viewed as a nuisance by some stall operators who want the government to leave them alone.

At Fa Yuen Street market in Mongkok, fish stall operator Leung Chung-hing said a proposal to add a plastic barrier to a display counter, to stop water spilling on to the walkway, was impractical. 'Many Ah Pau [elderly women] are very short. If you put up such a barrier, they will not be able to touch the fish to choose the one they want,' he said. Mr Leung also opposes the installation of air-conditioners at the market because of the extra fees.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department wants to install air-conditioners, but stall owners will have to pay an operating and maintenance fee ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars a month, depending on stall size.

The department needs agreement from at least 85 per cent of the market's 180 tenants to go ahead with the plan.

'Business is so bad these days. A customer told me she can enjoy a dish of rice costing only $7.50 in Chinese restaurants, so why bother buying a fish to cook at home?' Mr Leung said. 'The government should leave us alone.'

He said some relatively wealthy customers used to drive to Mongkok to buy fresh food at the market. 'But now there are no parking spaces and they all go to the supermarket in the Festival Walk [shopping mall in Kowloon Tong].'

A vegetable stall owner, Chan Chor-wing, said he also found the air-conditioning fee too expensive. 'The only things we can do to keep customers is to be friendly and give better bargains,' he said.

Karen Au Kar-lai was the first of the four managers hired to modernise Fa Yuen Street, Hung Hom, North Kwai Chung and Smithfield markets.

Ms Au, a university graduate with six years' experience in managing shopping malls and public housing estates, said more activities would be organised to enhance customer loyalty.

For example, the Fa Yuen Street market last week asked customers to vote for the most friendly stall.

'People come here because they enjoy personal communication. For example, some housewives come every day to chat with stall owners because they have become friends,' Miss Au said.

Luk Ming-yan, the department's senior superintendent on hawkers and markets management, said his colleagues had asked traders to get rid of their 'bad habits'.

Pork sellers have been asked not to carry pig carcasses on their backs in the market but instead use trolleys.

In new markets, live poultry is sold in a separate area for disease prevention.