Trust is the most important element of the organic food industry in Hong Kong, say two shopowners. 'Eating organic food is like religion: it depends on how much you want to believe in it,' said Don Ng Kim-ching, owner of the organic vegetable shop GrEEns in Tin Hau. Mr Ng, who comes from a family that sold conventional vegetables, began his organic-food business in 2006. 'This was always my wish, as I knew how many chemicals were used to grow those vegetables.' However, selling local organic products in Hong Kong is not easy: it takes continuing effort to ensure they are genuine. 'We have to take many steps to ensure the food we sell is real organic food,' he said. 'It is not enough just to look at the certificate issued by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre Certificate Ltd. I have to know these farmers, to visit them three times a month to ensure the quality of the products. 'It is important to make sure they don't grow organic vegetables the same way they grew conventional vegetables. I also have to know whether they are devotees of environmental protection.' Mr Ng favours more chemical tests and random checks on organic food. That view is shared by Alan Leung Yiu-po, owner of the organic vegetable shop Oh! My farm in Wan Chai, who said: 'The certificate is not 100 per cent reliable. For example, I have found organic beetroot being sold in some shops all year round. This is a bit weird since that vegetable is not supposed to be produced all year. The organic vegetable business really calls for self-discipline.' Mr Leung told the Sunday Morning Post that some organic farms use chemicals to grow their vegetables, forcing him to pay close attention. 'It might be better if there was more legislation on organic food, to give better assurance.' Both men sell organic vegetables grown in Hong Kong, which they consider a relatively reliable source. Another threat to the organic food business in Hong Kong is the limited market share. 'About 60 per cent of our customers are long-term, while the others are walk-ins,' said Mr Ng. 'This is not just a commercial business but also about social justice. It is impossible to make big profits.' However, it makes Mr Ng glad to know that mothers with young children or newborns come to him for tiny purchases such as a thin slice of pumpkin or two pieces of choi sum. 'Big companies won't sell in this way, but I am happy that I can help these mothers to provide their kids with organic food.' Still, organic-food shops cannot survive on satisfaction alone. The Healthy Cottage, a social enterprise that sold organic vegetables in Kwai Chung, had to shut down because the supply of vegetables was unstable and the customers too few.