What's our fascination with imported produce in HK?
Is it true that everyone in Hong Kong buys produce that's imported? No. Only premium stores stock overpriced and overpackaged produce targeting a rather well-educated market of individuals who should really know better. If you're reading this blog, you might be one of them. So why do they buy imported produce when they can support local, regional and sometimes organic farmers instead?
- They buy the organic pear from Japan because it's "sustainable" without taking into consideration the food miles involved. (what are food miles?)
- They buy nonorganic lettuce from Malaysia because it's from anywhere but China and Hong Kong.
- There are stigmas connected to local produce because of Hong Kong's proximity to China, which has in recent years littered headlines with horror stories of food contamination.
- Grocery stores love to feed into consumer paranoia by marketing where imported items have come from, as if to say:
'If you don't buy this safe, healthy, and better-for-you milk from Australia, you'll be stuck buying that cheap and probably tainted local stuff from Hong Kong.'
- "I have the money, so I don't mind spending $5 on a single pepper."
- "I love the unnecessary packaging."
- "Wet markets" aren't as fashionable as "farmer's markets."
- There are a few shops here and there, but in general organic produce isn't that easy to find (see homegrownfoods.com.hk)
- Differences in how you're perceived with a Citysuper bag versus a Wellcome bag are shameful.
- Heaven forbid the grocery stores promote locally grown veg the same way they do for imports.
- What they want simply isn't available in Hong Kong - this one is actually somewhat excusable, but still.
On the bright side, the vast majority of people in Hong Kong still buy produce at wet markets, which:
- Actually provide fresh produce that hasn't traveled halfway around the world to reach your plate.
- Support local or regional farmers.
- Are at every corner so you don't really have an excuse not to support them unless you're in mid-levels.
- Are so competitively priced so they'll always be the main source for produce in Hong Kong.
What would I like to see change? Local wet markets banding together and promoting:
"Shop Here to Support Mom 'n' Pops and Our Local Farms."
Now THAT would be interesting.