Vegetable farms set to be registered

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2006, 12:00am

Scheme enables authorities to trace contaminated produce

All of the nearly 3,000 Hong Kong vegetable farms are expected to join a voluntary registration scheme in the next two months, according to an agriculture official.

The scheme's introduction follows the discovery in April that small amounts of locally produced vegetables went to market without being tested for contaminants.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department assistant director (agricultural) Liu Kwei-kin yesterday unveiled the registration scheme and said it should be fully operational by September.

'We will go over all of the local vegetable farms in the New Territories and collect information such as location, pesticides used and where the farmers sell their products. Some farms may be missed but we will visit them later,' he said.

The scheme would allow authorities to monitor the use of pesticides and provide a database to trace the origin of contaminated vegetables from local farms. Dr Liu said the registration scheme aimed to help farmers rather than spy on them.

'We want to encourage local farms to adopt good horticultural practice and environmentally friendly production. Pest management and the use of pesticides are two major works we are particularly concerned about,' he said.

Fung Ming-hong, proprietor of an organic farm in Fung Chut Heung, Yueng Long, believed most local vegetables were safe.

'Local farmers usually do not overuse pesticides, and there are checks from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Vegetable Marketing Organisation. The contaminated vegetables are more likely to come from the mainland,' Mr Fung said.

'Supermarkets in Hong Kong order from mainland farms every day. Usually the vegetables do not come from one single farm. It would be impossible to find which farm vegetables came from.'

Mr Fung was not optimistic about the registration system.

'It is voluntary. The farmers may not be interested as it may be too much trouble. But the main point is, it is such a small proportion of local vegetables compared with mainland imports,' he said.

The Vegetable Marketing Organisation has admitted that only half the city's vegetables are distributed to retailers through the organisation, which conducts random checks on produce. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department also tests vegetables from the mainland at the border, but some local farms, especially small ones, sell direct, without going through any tests.