Rent levels and poor business environment upset market traders

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 July, 2009, 12:00am

The majority of traders at a Fanling wet market are unhappy with their business environment, according to a survey by the Civic Party, which urged the government to improve its planning policies.

One in seven also said the rent at Luen Wo Hui Market was too high, although the scope for lowering it would be limited by the market's HK$6 million deficit last year.

The party last month interviewed 92 tenants, of whom 81 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with the market's business environment. Eighty per cent said a lack of public facilities nearby meant they had fewer customers. The market is surrounded by private residential buildings whose residents were more likely to shop in supermarkets, the Civic Party said. A lack of transport links also kept people away, it said.

Seventy per cent of traders said the rent was too high. The market was one of 11 managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department that ran up a deficit of HK$5 million or more, according to an Audit Commission report last year.

The party called for better planning policies, including for public housing and transport.

With better community facilities in Sheung Shui, residents would rather shop there, said Poon Ken-ming, 58, who sells traditional paper offerings at the Luen Wo Hui Market.

Although the department earlier announced that a rental freeze for all stalls at markets managed by the department would be extended for a year, the party called for further reductions in rent.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, the party's legislator for New Territories East, said lower rents would attract a greater range of tenants and, in turn, more customers.

The vacancy rate of Luen Wo Hui Market reached 22.7 per cent by March this year, according to a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok in the Legislative Council in May.

The department launched a pilot scheme at six public markets in June with the introduction of diversified services such as bakeries and massage stalls to increase their attractiveness, a spokesman said.

Falling market

According to a report by the Audit Commission last year, the amount lost on 104 public markets by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, in HK dollars, was: $160m