Singapore

AVA to tender out 60ha of farm land

36 plots in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah to be released on 20-year leases to boost local share in food supply

For the first time in more than two decades, the Government is releasing land for new farms so that local sources can help provide a bigger share of Singaporeans' food supply.

Starting August, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will tender out 36 new plots of farm land in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah on 20-year leases.

They span a total of 60ha of land, the equivalent of 60 football fields.

But the new plots will not offset the loss in farmland in end 2019. Then, the leases of 62 local farms in Lim Chu Kang and Kranji will run out and the land will be used by the military.

AVA's hope, though, is that use of high-technology farming in the new plots can boost productivity and yield.

Experienced farmers with good track records and who are willing to adopt high-tech farming methods will stand a good chance of winning the bids, AVA said in a media briefing yesterday.

"It is not simply for the sake of using a lot of high-end technology... but about how the farmers harness that technology," said AVA chief executive officer Tan Poh Hong.

She pointed to existing modern farming methods used by Seng Choon Farm and Kok Fah Technology Farm.

Kok Fah, for example, reduced its manpower needs by 30 per cent through the use of automated seed sowing, irrigation and vegetable packing.

The Government wants to step up Singapore's food security within the constraints of limited land.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday that local farmers supplying vegetables, fish and eggs provide a buffer against overseas supply disruptions.

The target is to have more food produced locally - 30 per cent for eggs, 15 per cent for fish and 10 per cent for leafy vegetables, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon in March.

Last year, local farms managed to produce only around 24 and 10 per cent of eggs and fish consumed here but managed to exceed the target for vegetables. "Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need," wrote Mr Wong in a blog post.

Currently, less than 1 per cent of land here is marked for farm use. There are a total of 358 licensed farms here, of which 212 are food farms.

AVA held three briefing sessions with 185 farmers at its Jurong East headquarters yesterday. It will also conduct advisory sessions before each tender launch.

But reactions among the farmers were mixed.

Not all were keen about the new tenders, citing difficulties in financing the move or the cost of the new technology.

Quail egg farmer William Ho, 51, of Lian Wah Hang Quail Farm, said those who will not make the cut are likely to be the older ones, who do not have the capital to reinvest in another 20-year farming career.

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AGRI-FOOD AND VETERINARY AUTHORITY (AVA)FARMINGLawrence Wong