Cold sends shivers down spines over vege costs

Local | Erin Chan 14 Jan 2021

Farmers paid a high price for the cold weather yesterday, with their vegetables damaged by frost as the mercury dipped below freezing in certain parts of the New Territories.

The observatory said temperatures yesterday morning fell to as low as minus 0.9 degrees Celsius in Ta Kwu Ling - the lowest in 33 years - and minus 0.5 degrees in Pak Tam Chung.

The plunge was attributed to "radiational cooling" - a phenomenon in which the ground radiates away heat at night, as there is no incoming solar energy, and is enhanced under clear skies, light winds and dry conditions.

Frost was found on vegetables in fields across Ta Kwu Ling, Ping Che and Sheung Shui.

Hong Kong New Territories Local Farmers Association chairwoman Wong Chat-tai, who owns Lai Kee Farm in Sheung Shui, said she could lose up to HK$80,000 as half of her vegetable crop was damaged by the frost.

"We will try to harvest as much vegetables as possible, otherwise they will wither and die in the cold," Wong said. "We are still looking through the vegetables, picking the ones that are in good condition."

She likened the situation to when a hailstorm lashed the city five years ago. "Lots of farmers had to sell their vegetables at HK$20 per catty [600 grams] at the time due to the reduced yields," Wong said.

"But this time, frost fell on vegetables, [which is worse]."

A Ta Kwu Ling farmer nicknamed "Sister Lai" said most of her vegetables, including Shanghai white cabbages, broccoli, tomatoes and bok choy, were hit.

"The vegetables can no longer be saved - at least 70 to 80 percent of them are damaged," she said.

The observatory also received reports of frost in other places in the New Territories, including Sha Tin Racecourse, Sai Kung's Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course and Sheung Shui's Beas River Equestrian Center.

Ta Kwu Ling residents rode the temperature roller coaster yesterday, as temperatures rose to as high as 20.4 degrees in the afternoon from minus 0.9 in the morning.

The observatory issued the fifth cold weather warning of this year at 4.30pm yesterday and predicted that the weather would warm up in the next couple of days before another cold surge at the beginning of next week.

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