SCMP Monday, September 3, 2001

60pc buying daily from wet markets


The bird flu outbreak and competition from supermarkets have had little impact on the fresh food business at wet markets, a government household survey has found.
On average, of 1.9 million households surveyed between October and November last year, 60 per cent bought fresh food every day at wet markets, compared with just 12 per cent at supermarkets, according to the Census and Statistics Department study.
But over one two-week period, the number of households buying from wet markets rose as high as 87.6 per cent, while those who bought from supermarkets accounted for 12.4 per cent, the study found.
Fresh food covered in the survey included fruit, vegetables, poultry, eggs, fish and other seafood.
Meanwhile, a breakdown of the ages of shoppers revealed that the older they were, the more likely they were to shop at wet markets.
During the same two-week period, 74 per cent of people under 30 bought from wet markets, but this rose to 89 per cent for those aged between 40 and 49, and 94.7 per cent for those over 60.
The study found the main reasons for buying at wet markets were fresher food and lower prices, while those shopping at supermarkets preferred cleaner food and convenient locations, followed by a cleaner shopping environment.
Hong Kong Fresh Fruit Importers' Association chairman Patrick Kam said: "Fruit on average is still fresher at wet markets than supermarkets."
He said this was because wet market stalls bought in smaller quantities and slashed the prices of produce they were not able to sell immediately, while supermarkets purchased in bulk and were slower to reduce prices on unsold produce.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which manages most large wet markets across Hong Kong, is planning a consultancy study to look at their more effective management. "Consumers' changing habits and buying patterns will be part of the study," a department spokeswoman said.
Tang Ling, a 50-year-old housewife who lives in Chai Wan, said she never bought frozen or fresh meat from supermarkets. "I am not sure about the freshness since the meat might have been frozen for a long time," she said. "Wet markets are much better."
The Food Trades Association was unavailable for comment.