High price to pay for nature-friendly products

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am

HONG KONG IS paying one of the highest prices in the world for organic produce - tempting for anyone seeking an opportunity in this ever-growing industry.

In Europe, organic produce costs about 30 per cent more than non-organic produce. In the US and Canada, the price difference is less.

But in Hong Kong, organic goods could be 200 per cent to 800 per cent costlier than non-organic goods. High start-up and labour costs account for part of this. In the case of imported food, shipping costs also matter.

An important cost element, however, is the supermarket shelf charge - which is the money that producers pay to supermarkets for displaying their products.

But a new community-based marketing system that is evolving could benefit both consumers and producers. Widely used in Japan, it cuts out intermediaries such as distributors and shops who take much of the profit. The new marketing system involves a home-delivery network that links farms directly to homes.

'The marketing network is only just starting, so we don't really know how successful it will be,' said Simon Chau, chairman of the Produce Green Foundation.

'Basically, it involves households or any other consumer placing regular orders of certain quantities for delivery once or twice a week. It is an exciting new marketing system that could reduce prices significantly,' he said.