Wet markets are an integral part of Hong Kong's cultural fabric. They are where many of us get our fresh food and produce and catch up on gossip. Few other places are as colorful, vibrant or friendly. Yet government complexes set up decades ago to make an often chaotic sector more orderly are increasingly forlorn and empty. The government auction of stalls at one such building in Tsuen Wan was telling that such spaces should be in hot demand given how engrained wet markets have traditionally been in the lives of Hong Kong people. This was not the case, with only a small percentage of stalls on offer being taken up despite low rents.
Supermarkets have contributed to the decline too. They have cleverly taken the wet market concept and used it to their advantage, providing a similar shopping experience in sections of their shops for fruit, vegetables, meat and fish in a considerably more comfortable environment. Prices can be higher, because bargaining is not permitted, but studies show that their market share is steadily growing. Air conditioning, labeling and cleanliness are clearly what shoppers favor.
Part of the problem is that the wet markets are run by the government - they are managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. Many people claimed that this sort of commercial activity would be much better operated by the private sector. The auction of vacant stalls is a good example of where things are going wrong.
Auctions are Hong Kong Government's preferred method of renting or selling property, but this is no way to operate a shopping centre. The right tenants have to be found and they have to sell an attractive mix of products. There has to be a pleasant shopping environment. In this way, the government is not the threat of wet markets but the commercial private sectors and the opposing voices which require the government to step back and let the private sectors to take over the existence of wet markets.
From the buyers side, there are two main concerns that they would choose to buy at supermarkets rather than wet markets.
First of all, the service hours of supermarkets are longer than wet markets normally. For wet markets, the regular working hours are usually from 8am or 9am to 6pm or 7pm in weekdays, and they would open for even shorter hours in Sunday or public holidays. These service hours do not suit lots of people especially for the younger generations, which they have to work during the working service hours of the wet markets. When they are off from work, all wet markets have already been closed. It is not convenient to them. However, since the service hours of supermarkets are much longer, say, from 9am to 10pm or even 11pm, it suits most of the people who need to work for long hours. The other advantage for supermarkets is that the service hours still remain the same on Sunday and public holidays, which outfits another group of people who do not have time to visit the wet markets in weekdays. Overall speaking, supermarkets provide a more convenience method for people to buy things there.
Moreover, the other threat of wet markets is that the hygiene level is much worse than supermarkets. According to the newspaper, a lot of public washrooms inside the wet market had been suffered from the effusion of water for many years. More seriously, it has been discovered that there are market stalls selling cooked dogs inside the wet markets in New Territories. Furthermore, it is usual to see mouse and cockroaches in wet markets. From these evidences, we could see that the hygiene level in the wet markets have room to improve. Alternatively, the hygiene control of super market is much matter. For instance, they operate in a comfortable area which their staffs are working in a clearly coordinate structure. Also, their supervision towards different kinds of food, especially seafood and meat, is very rigorous. Since the increasing concern on hygiene level nowadays, people in...
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