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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Friday Beyond Spotlights - Anthony Lam,  stories beyond a bowl of rice

Friday Beyond Spotlights - Anthony Lam, stories beyond a bowl of rice

Friday Beyond Spotlights is an informative yet light-hearted talk show airing every Friday at 8:30pm on Hong Kong International Business Channel (#76).

The English language programme features prominent guests who share their insights into current affairs, business, innovation and culture, as well as their ingenuity, passion and grit which forge their Lion Rock spirit. The show is hosted by businessman and philanthropist Patrick Tsang On-yip, lawyer and lawmaker Nick Chan Hiu-fung and seasoned business maverick Herman Hu Shao-ming.

Hosted by Nick Chan Hiu-fung, the second episode of Season 2 presents Anthony Lam Sai-ho, Vice Chairman of Golden Resources Group, one of the world’s most prominent rice importers, wholesalers and distributers with headquarter in Hong Kong. Lam also serves as Executive Deputy Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries and Chairman of the Hong Kong Q-mark Council.

Eating rice is part of the culture

Originated from the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River, the cultivation of rice has a history of 8,500 years to 13,500 years. Today, rice is eaten by nearly all of the world’s population with an annual consumption of about 510 million tonnes. In Hong Kong, the average person consumes 38kg of rice a year.

“Rice eating is very much attached to different cultures”, says Lam, with people in Shanghai enjoy “soup rice”; in Japan people eat a lot of “tea rice”; and in Vietnam they have “broken rice” cuisine because their rice is easy to break. Another interesting aspect of rice, adds Lam, is that a particular type of rice works better with a particular type of food. “It’s like wine pairing. If I give you the best fragrant rice to make sushi or ‘eel rice’, you won’t like it because they won’t match. So if you eat risotto, you have got to use Italian rice.”

Rice industry goes hi-tech to increase productivity

Like many other industries, the rice industry is also facing a number of challenges such as rising urbanisation rate; but with the help of new technologies both the yield and productivity have improved, says Lam. “For example, in Southeast Asia and China, people use drones to help increase yield. They use drone to sow the seeds and fertilise the crops. These have countered the negative effects of urbanisation. In fact, trading of rice has increased 10 per cent this year.” He encourages young people to join the rice industry. “There are lots of developments in the rice industry, especially in the area of new technologies, and these provide opportunities for the young people to grow.”

Business philosophy inspired by rice gunny bag hooks

At the interview, Lam shares with audience a pair of rice gunny bag hooks given by his father when he joined the rice company after working six years as a corporate banker upon university graduation. “These are the hooks which my grandfather gave to my father. They are used to hook the gunny bag of rice. If you pull it too hard, you will slash the bag; but if don’t apply enough force, you can’t do it. Even people in our management don’t know how to handle this,” says Lam, “To me, this is a lesson saying that each and every level of our colleagues has a unique skill that other people can’t replace, so we have to appreciate each and every person in the company. We put these (the hooks) in our office to make sure that this story is told to all new colleagues.”

Lam says this also reflects what the rice business is. “Instead of only looking after the shareholders, we look after the stakeholders, which means all Hong Kong people. This is the spirit of rice. Even in the bad times, we don’t raise the price because we have to make sure that everybody has enough rice to eat. This is very important.”

Reborn of “Fa Yiu Tsai”, the Hong Kong rice

Lam also brings with him a bag of “Fa Yiu Tsai” rice, a local crop variety reintroduced by the Agricultural Fisheries and Conservation Department in August this year. The variety, which had gone extinct in the 1960s, was revived in 2019 with seeds from the seed bank using new technologies. “We have to appreciate all the different kinds of rice. In Hong Kong, we have this variety called ‘Fa Yiu Tsai’, which has a vanilla smell and slightly reddish colour. It’s very different from any other kind of rice; it’s our own Hong Kong rice.”

Lam says “Fa Yiu Tsai” has gone through the bad times when it had gone extinct, but now is the good time as the variety has been revived. Perhaps this can also be used to show that good times will return. “I think we should be positive about Hong Kong. Let’s put away all the negativeness. We all live in Hong Kong wherever we are from. Hong Kong is our home, so together we are going to make Hong Kong better,” says Lam in his well wishes to the city.

To watch the video, visit Friday Everyday YouTube Channel – Friday Beyond Spotlights Season 2 Ep. 2 l  Anthony Lam.
Part 1: https://youtu.be/NuZrjTgKFAI
Part 2: https://youtu.be/Nc8Atfj0L7A

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