Hong Kong flower farmer burns Lunar New Year's stock

As Lunar New Year draws near in China, a flower farmer’s stock goes up in flames.

That, after Hong Kong's stringent measures against the Omicron variant have halved his demand.

70-year-old Leung Yat-shen runs a traditional farm in Hong Kong's rural Yuen Long district where he grows sword lilies, water lilies and tulips.

He had planted 200,000 flowers for the celebration - but was unable to offload about half of them due to the crash in demand.

"These beautiful flowers are completely healthy and I would normally pick them and bring them to the market - look how pretty they are. But due to the epidemic, this year there is no flower market at all. So after they've blossomed, I have to get rid of them all by burning them. So that they don't stay in the ground and collect rot."

Leung has been able to sell some flowers directly to customers at his farm, which he runs together with his wife and three employees.

But on January 14 the government announced that traditional Lunar New Year flower fairs in around 15 districts would be closed because of the pandemic, in line with the territory's zero-COVID policy.

Traffic restrictions on locations traditionally used by wholesalers were also put in place.

"Over there is the source of my income for the year, worth six figures. These flowers are all in season and could have been sold. And here at my farm, we are fair about the price too. I don't exaggerate or hike (the prices). My income depends on Christmas and Lunar New Year sales."

Government figures show compensation has been offered to license holders of Lunar New Year flower fairs, but Leung said he has received nothing as a farmer.

The only financial stimulus he has had from the government was the chance to draw an interest-free loan as part of an anti-epidemic fund.

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads, there have been over 600 locally transmitted infections in January so far, compared with just two in December.

That, despite Hong Kong's success in keeping the virus under control for much of 2021.

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