Peach blossoms, tangerine trees in demand as Hong Kong celebrates Chinese New Year with few COVID-19 restrictions
HONG KONG: After years of muted celebrations caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is blooming again.
Flower sales are up, with farms and florists reporting a jump in purchases this year. Some told CNA they were almost sold out.
Flowers are more than just a festive decoration in the city. They hold deeper meanings including prosperity, health, fortune, love and family unity – even more symbolic in a year of reunions made possible by eased restrictions.
In the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year, crowds flocked to flower farms in the New Territories to pick out the biggest and prettiest homegrown peach blossoms.
“These (peach blossoms) have been planted for three years, and they look beautiful and most suitable for the festive season,” said Mr Kwok Choi Tim, owner of Choi Kee Garden.
PEACH BLOSSOM, TANGERINE SALES
“(Many people from) mall management and big banks all believe in feng shui, so they come to buy the peach blossoms as they believe they can bring luck and favour to their business."
Mr Kwok said the farm has seen a 10 per cent increase in total sales from last year, and has sold close to 90 per cent of its crop.
Over at Chung Ying Farm, the most popular plant during this festive period is the tangerine tree, a compact shrub which bears fruit resembling small, round oranges.
In Cantonese, the name of the plant sounds like “kat cheong”, which means “auspicious”.
Many families and businesses place the plant at home or in offices, hoping it will bring them good luck for the new year.
KNOCK-ON EFFECTS OF CURBS
But for farms like Chung Ying, which rely heavily on imports from the mainland, the road to recovery may be slower due to the knock-on effects of pandemic restrictions.
Many ordered supplies even before Christmas in anticipation of possible lockdowns in China due to a surge in COVID cases during winter.
“It’s so troublesome for us to ship the goods during the closure of borders. The plants took three to four days to arrive,” said the farm’s owner Mr Lam Moon Cheung.
Manpower shortage and transport costs have also caused difficulties.
“We had a hard time hiring workers – the labour supply was intense as well as the transportation,” said Mr Lam.
“Many workers have returned to their villages and were not able to return to the city for work during the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns (in China).”
Transportation costs have been driven up by three-fold to about US$13,000 compared to pre-pandemic years.
With China's reopening, Mr Lam is hopeful that things will look up in the new year.
REOPENING IN TIME FOR NEW YEAR
China’s reopening after nearly three years of closure is not just good news for flower businesses. The move earlier in January was accompanied by drastic reduction of pandemic curbs that made it possible for families to be reunited in different cities for Chinese New Year.
Tens of millions of Chinese citizens travelled across the country to visit family and friends, many for the first time since the pandemic began.
“I’ve been in mainland China completely for three years because of COVID-19 pandemic. We are quite excited that we have the opportunity to take our child back home to Hong Kong to meet our relatives,” said a resident travelling from Shanghai to Hong Kong.
A mother arriving with her son at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Railway Station, where high speed trains operate to the mainland, said they were unable to travel earlier due to pandemic restrictions. With quarantine mandates lifted, the pair made their way to the city in time for the festive period.
“We definitely missed home, but my son was studying in China so we didn’t have a choice but to remain. If we kept travelling, it might affect his studies,” she said.
“My grandparents and father are all in Hong Kong, and I haven’t seen them in a long time so I really miss them,” her son added.