Bid for tenants in bare wet markets
Officials are looking at ways to entice more tenants to the government's wet markets, which are losing more than $200 million a year with almost a quarter of their stalls vacant.
Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Gregory Leung Wing-lup said the vacancy rate in the 104 government markets was 24.67 per cent.
In Shamshuipo's Tung Chung Street wet market, where the vacancy rate is the highest, 72.88 per cent of the stalls are empty.
This is followed by the market on Tang Lung Street in Causeway Bay, where 65 per cent of the stalls are unoccupied, according to the department's figures.
Mr Leung was responding in a written reply to lawmakers' questions about the vacancy rate.
Despite the $200 million annual loss, the government will spend $367 million to improve the facilities in 22 of the wet markets in this financial year in an effort to attract traders.
In the 2002-03 fiscal year, the department had to pump in a subsidy of $218 million, while in 2003-04 the loss was $210 million.
Renovation works planned for 22 markets include improvements in drainage, lighting, ventilation systems, notices and fire services.
Other efforts to make the markets more attractive include hiring people with experience in running private markets to map out future management and promotional works to encourage patronage.
The department will also try to improve hygiene by stepping up cleaning work and enforcement of the monthly special cleaning day.
Rents will also be lowered for stalls that have been vacant for a long time and special promotions, such as talk shows, exhibitions or lucky draws, will be introduced in some markets.
Meanwhile, the department has warned poultry traders to strictly observe the monthly rest days or risk having their tenancies or licences terminated or cancelled.
The warning was issued after it discovered shops in Cheung Fat Estate, Tsing Yi, selling poultry meat on Sunday when they should have been closed for the monthly clean-up.
According to the tenancy and licensing conditions of live poultry outlets, no live birds can be kept or stored on the premises on a rest day and business must be suspended for a thorough cleaning and disinfection. The regular closures were introduced as part of efforts to improve hygiene and prevent an outbreak of bird flu.
Failure to comply with rest day conditions could lead to immediate termination of market stall tenancies or cancellation of fresh provision shop licences.