Fruit of labour fading away in Yau Ma Tei

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am


Amid declining business and financial hardship, Yau Ma Tei's landmark fruit market stalls are still keeping their produce at affordable prices through friendly competition.

'We are keeping the fruit supply from being monopolised - without us, your fruit will get very expensive,' said Cheung Chi-cheung, a second-generation fruit seller and vice-chairman of the Kowloon Fruit and Vegetable Merchants Association.

But business is difficult and Cheung said it was getting harder to survive.

The area around Shek Lung Street in Yau Ma Tei was a bulk wet market from early last century, selling fish, eggs, poultry, vegetables and fruit to most places in the Kowloon area. It started off with about 20 stalls, but there were 300 in its heyday in the 1960s. By the 1970s, the fish and poultry merchants and vegetable stalls had moved elsewhere and the area became known as a fruit market. Now there are still about 200 fruit merchants, importing from all around the world to cater for Hong Kong's fruit retail outlets.

The fruit market was one of many old ways of life in Hong Kong which were fading away, said Simon Go Man-ching, project director and curator at heritage group Hulu Culture, which has been organising events to promote the culture and trade of Yau Ma Tei.

'Whether it's the fruit market or shops selling traditional Chinese wedding necessities like handmade bride's dresses, they are all fast disappearing,' Go said.

Fung Bing-hau, who grew up in Yau Ma Tei district and comes from a family of noodle makers, said the area was a cohesive community where people knew each other, looked out for each other and enjoyed living together.

'You don't get a lot of that now with Hong Kong changing so fast. So I think this place is worth keeping, and I love living here,' Fung said.

Hulu, along with the Arts Development Council and West Kowloon Cultural District Authority is putting together an exhibition, starting on December 18, to showcase arts and culture in Yau Ma Tei.

The district's offerings will be introduced in four parts - North, East, South, West.

The four directions cover different cultural influences in Hong Kong - the northern mainland influence, Asian culture or oriental culture of the east, Hong Kong's position as a hub in southern China, and the colonial British influence. Tours will also be conducted of the area.

Go hoped that the events could showcase the unique cultural aspects of the Yau Ma Tei area and highlight the importance of retaining local colour and culture.