Florists cry foul at Fair curbs

Local | Maisy Mok 21 Jan 2021

The upcoming Lunar New Year fairs should have shorter operating hours and two "golden periods" for cleaning every day, authorities told dismayed flower sellers.

Stall proprietors met with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department yesterday, during which they were told the flower markets can run till midnight at the latest, compared to past midnight on the first day of Lunar New Year in the past.

The department also wants to reserve two slots - 1pm to 2pm and 6pm to 7pm - to close the markets for cleaning.

Many florists were angered by the new arrangement, as they expected high customer traffic during those periods, which correspond with lunchtime and off-work hours for office workers. Some were also unhappy about being assigned fewer stalls than they had originally won through bidding.

The number of people allowed into Lunar New Year fairs could be further reduced if the pandemic worsens, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Vivian Lau Lee-kwan said.

"When necessary, we will reduce the number of entrances in each zone, so people can maintain social distancing when purchasing flowers. We hope this can be done but it still depends on the epidemic," Lau said in response to whether the flower markets will be canceled again if the epidemic situation worsens.

The government's decision on Thursday to allow sales of flowers at the 15 sites originally designated for the Lunar New Year fairs - was met with mixed reactions from flower farmers.

Regarding whether the government's sudden U-turn has helped flower farmers, Lee Wing-keung, who originally bid 14 stalls for Lunar New Year fairs, said "it helped in adding to the chaos."

Lee said he had already made arrangements to rent stores on A short-term basis to sell flowers when the authority first canceled the event and had even made down payments.

Poon, a flower farmer from Poshan Garden, said after discussing the flower market arrangements with the authority, he thought the new arrangements were "marginally" acceptable and "better than not having any point of sale."

Poon said the visitor flows to the flower markets will be significantly reduced this year and his income would be affected. He added the government's cancellation and resumption of the fairs was extremely chaotic and caused flower farmers to feel uneasy.

As for the owner of Shun Sum Farm, Leung Yat-shun, he said the annual flower farmers' wholesale market, where he usually sells his flowers during the Lunar New Year, is still canceled.

As the size of the fairs has been cut by half, Lau said using lucky draw to allocate stalls is the fairest arrangement for successful bidders, who can now use the sites for free.

She said the authority is trying to arrange for each successful bidder to be allocated at least one stall, but they can only have a maximum of three stalls.

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