36 new plots of farm land with 20-year leases to be open for tender

The plots, spanning 60 hectares, are located in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, and farmers who can adopt technology to optimise production will have an edge.
Afifah Ariffin Channel NewsAsia 11 May 17;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has set aside about 60 hectares of new agricultural land for food farming in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, it announced on Thursday (May 11).

The land, which is divided into 36 plots, will be put up for tender in tranches from August this year. They will be tendered on 20-year leases instead of the previous 10-year blocks, as promised by AVA in 2016, to provide "more certainty" to farms and encourage them to invest in technologies.

The first tranche up for tender this August covers 12 plots of land which are meant for leafy vegetable farming, said AVA, while another three plots of land for fish farming will be slated for tender in October.

In the second quarter of next year, seven plots for vegetables, quail's eggs and general food farming will be open for tender. The remaining 14 plots, for leafy vegetables, bean sprouts and general agriculture farming, will be available from 2019 onwards.

General agriculture could involve frog, goat or cattle farming, according to AVA.

NEW METHODS USED TO TENDER LAND PLOTS

AVA said the new plots of land will be tendered using new methods. For leafy vegetables, food fish, beansprouts and quail egg farming, a fixed price tender method will be used.

Under this method, the land price will be fixed and those who make bids will compete purely on the tender proposals submitted.

For general agriculture farming, a concept and price tender method will be employed. Those who meet the evaluation criteria will be shortlisted, and the tender will be awarded to the shortlisted ones with the highest land price, according to AVA.

"Emphasis will be placed on the quality of proposals. This means that farmers will compete based on the best concepts proposed, with a focus on productivity gains rather than on land price alone," AVA said.

The criteria used to assess the tender proposals will involve:

- Production capability - ability to achieve high production levels
- Production track record - ability to achieve projected production levels based on past performance
- Relevant experience and qualification - ability to deliver results
- Innovation and sustainability - ability to use innovation to improve and sustain production, and maintain business viability

This means farmers with good production records and ideas that can optimise production and manpower will stand a good chance of winning the new plots.

“Those planning to participate in the upcoming tenders must seize the opportunity to adopt innovative agri-technologies to maximise land and labour productivity,” said AVA CEO Tan Poh Hong.

“We have been engaging farmers to help them overcome the challenges of adopting technologies. I am glad that many farmers recognise that technology is critical to the future of farming,” she added.

To help farmers be familiar with putting up tender proposals based on concepts, AVA said it would conduct advisory sessions on the drafting these proposals before the launch of every tender.

In a blog post on Tuesday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had encouraged local farmers to take up plots of agricultural land which will be set aside to promote high-tech farming, adding that the Government will do more to help farmers adopt new technology.



Land for farms up for tender, a first in decades
RUMI HARDASMALANI Today Online 12 May 17;

SINGAPORE — The Government will tender out new plots of agricultural land spanning 60ha from August, for the first time in decades.

Comprising 36 plots in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, the new agricultural land parcels for food farming will be tendered on 20-year leases, announced the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) yesterday. The tendering for land for non-food farms will be announced at a later date.

Encouraging local farmers to take up plots of agricultural land which will be set aside to promote high-tech farming, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in a blog post on Tuesday that the Government would do more to help farmers adopt new technology.

“A modern agricultural sector will continue to play a key role in Singapore’s future, even as our economy evolves and our society becomes more urbanised,” Mr Wong said in his post.

The food-farm tendering process will be rolled out in tranches, with the first starting in August for 12 plots set aside for leafy-vegetable farming. The second tranche comprising three food-fish farming plots will open in October this year. A further seven plots for leafy vegetable, quail egg and general agriculture food farming will be released in the third tranche during the second quarter of next year. From 2019 onwards, 14 plots for leafy vegetables, bean sprouts and general agriculture food farming will be tendered in subsequent tranches.

In June last year, the AVA extended the leases for the 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang that have to make way for redevelopment. The tenures for the farms will now expire at the end of 2019, instead of June this year. The farms are making way for the Ministry of Defence. The AVA also announced last year that new agricultural land tendered would be based on 20-year leases instead of the current 10 years, to provide more certainty and enable investment in better technologies.

“Allotting far-flung areas for agricultural use is obvious as land in Singapore competes for best use,” said R’ST Research director Ong Kah Seng. “We are moving up the value chain across sectors, and agriculture will also have to adopt modern techniques to do so.”

In a new fixed-price tender method, the farmers will compete based on the best proposed concepts with a focus on productivity gains. The land price will be fixed based on market value as evaluated by the chief valuer, the AVA said. For general agricultural food farming, the concept and price method will shortlist bids meeting the evaluation criteria before awarding the highest-price bidder.

In response to farmers’ concerns over foreign players winning the bids, the AVA will look at matching the capabilities of local and foreign farmers to have them jointly bid for land. The idea is to optimally utilise Singapore’s precious land resources, said AVA chief executive officer Tan Poh Hong.

According to Mr Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research for Singapore and South-east Asia, the locations selected tie in with farming land that was long associated with this locality. “This is not surprising given the finite land available as well as the labour crunch.” Rumi Hardasmalani



Costs, tight timeline among farmers' concerns over tender

TOH EE MING Today Online 12 May 17;

SINGAPORE — For the last two years, food producers such as Mr Eric Ng have been going back to the drawing board to see how to expand their facilities and go high-tech or fully automated in their operations.

Mr Ng, who is chief executive officer of Apollo Aquaculture Group, has been looking at extending his three-tiered vertical fish farm to six-tiers.

He is also ambitious in his goal, looking to raise 110 tonnes of fish production to more than 4,000 tonnes yearly.

Now, his plans can finally be set in motion, following an announcement on Thursday (May 11) by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

The authority said that new agricultural land for food farming would be up for tender from August this year, with 36 plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah to be tendered on 20-year leases.

However, the entire process might be “a bit of a rush”, Mr Ng said, taking into consideration the work involved in filing a tender proposal, waiting for approval, and relocating everything to the new site.

Building new facilities might also set him back S$40 million, he estimated. “It’s been a long wait for the entire industry, and everybody is anxious … We’re just worried about having enough time to (get everything settled) in time for the deadline,” he added, referring to the uncertainty faced by some 62 farms in the Lim Chu Kang area when their tenures expire by end-2019.

Another producer eager to jump on the technology bandwagon is Mr Desmond Khoo, chief executive officer of Eden Garden Farm.

He recently visited China to see how high-tech farms are run, and said that new land could offer him the chance to invest in new technologies for his vegetable farm, such as putting more resources into vertical farming, automatic sprinklers, and online monitoring systems.

“Even though the plots of land offered (by the AVA) are smaller, it is okay as long as we embrace technology,” he added.

Some other food production firms are still uncertain about the future, telling TODAY they need more time to mull over business plans.

Mr Jack Ng, founder of Sky Greens, is waiting for more information from the authorities, such as the requirements needed for proposals.

The land-tender methods now focus on farmers competing on best concepts proposed, such as how productive the business will be.

Mr Ng said that this change might offer a chance for companies to change their “traditional mindsets” and usher in new ways of farming for the younger generation.

He suggested that government agencies could look into creating a centralised water-treatment and waste-processing plant in the new areas up for tender, to help cut costs and to ensure that “farmers can just concentrate on production”.

Ms Chelsea Wan, director of Jurong Frog Farm, is concerned that her family-owned facility could face competition from new entrants or land bidders.

She said that the AVA has tried to make the process easier, but there would still be “hefty costs” involved in redeveloping the whole business, and wondered if there could be more funding, or a low-interest loan to help farmers make the switch.

It would be a pity if “serious, veteran farmers” have to fold their operations, she added. “You won’t get another generation of (such) farmers.”

Mr Kenny Eng, president of the Kranji Countryside Association, which promotes homegrown agriculture and food security agreed.

He said that with the tender, more traditional farmers — the country’s “key growers” — are forced to “re-compete again in the arena”.

“The (new) entrants may have fresh ideas … but farmers who have been producing faithfully not only have to worry about the everyday problems (such as meeting) production levels … they now have to write a paper to compete in the open market.”

The rich heritage and educational value of longstanding farms should not be lost with the emphasis on productivity, he added.

“Does Singapore want the existing growers to be there, or just for a person to sell systems? To shift a farm, it’s not just shifting the assets, but shifting a whole livelihood… I just hope this exercise is looked at seriously and with deep thought and strategy, because any mistake... (would mean we) lose our existing growers, and there (will be) no such community anymore.”


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
NG JUN SEN, THE STRAITS TIMES The New Paper 12 May 17;

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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