New food farming federation to tackle manpower, productivity challenges

Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 26 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE: A food farming federation was formed on Wednesday (Oct 25) to address key challenges faced by the industry brought about by resource constraints and the current push for productivity.

Started by several members of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) food farming industry consultation panel, the Singapore Agro-food Enterprises Federation aims to promote the sector and is the first industry-wide initiative to bring farmers together on a single platform, said Mr Frank Tan, founding member of the federation and managing director of Marine Life Aquaculture.

Mr Tan said the new body’s immediate priorities include developing safety standards and guidelines for sustainable farming practices. It will also work on raising productivity, as well as building farming and manpower capabilities.

For example, the federation will look into pooling together resources and technology to be shared among the farmers, which could lower operating costs. Using waste from livestock farms as organic fertiliser for vegetable farming is one possibility, Mr Tan said.

The federation will also help to facilitate overseas study trips so farmers can learn and potentially adopt smart farming solutions, as well as hold sessions for the sharing of best practices.

Raising awareness of local produce among consumers will be a key aim as well, such as by working with AVA to bring farmers' markets to different parts of Singapore starting next year.

“At this point all the farmers are reaching out to customers on their own,” said Mr Tan. “We want to do an outreach programme that is unified to help identify us.”

Mr Tan said the timing of the federation is "very good" as the industry "has come to an establishment".

“Most of the large-scale farmers can produce in a very consistent way. It’s a good time where all the segments - the eggs, vegetable and food fish - come together to join and form this federation.”

The organisation will work with government agencies to implement initiatives and suggestions raised during the industry consultation panel, Mr Tan said. It will also seek to partner with research institutions, institutes of higher learning and venture capitalists to help boost the sector.

WHOLE ECOSYSTEM NEEDS TO CHIP IN

Besides Marine Life Aquaculture, the federation's founding members include Kok Fah Technology Farm and Chew's Agriculture. Heading the organisation as chairman is the current emeritus president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation George Huang.

Twenty more farms have pledged to join the not-for-profit organisation, including all three egg farms. In terms of output, the farms capture the entire local egg market share, around 70 per cent of fish meant for eating and 50 per cent of vegetables consumed locally.

There are currently around 200 food farms in Singapore.

According to the federation, membership will be opened to all licensed food farmers. Community farmers and individuals from institutes of higher learning can also join as associate members.

“I’m very happy to see the farmers themselves are taking this step to come together to work together to push for more advancements and transformation within the industry,” said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, who serves as patron for the federation.

“It takes the whole ecosystem - not just farmers but also the entire value chain, such as the institutes of higher learning as well as people in the marketing and retail space,” said Dr Koh, speaking on the sidelines of a site visit to high-tech vertical farm Sustenir on Thursday.


Local farmers band together to promote home-grown produce, solve challenges faced by agriculture industry
Audrey Tan Straits Times 26 Oct 17;

SINGAPORE - Local farmers from across the island are, for the first time, banding together to improve the small but important agriculture sector in Singapore.

Twenty farms from the livestock, food fish and vegetable sectors have come together to form a farming federation known as the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises (Safef), it was announced on Thursday (Oct 26).

There is another farming coalition, the Kranji Countryside Association, which was formed in 2005 to look after the interests of agribusinesses clustered in Singapore's rural north-west.

But the new federation is an organisation formed to represent and promote agri-food enterprises from all across Singapore.

Safef member farms include egg farm Seng Choon Farm, Rong-Yao Fisheries and vegetable farm Sustenir Agriculture (Singapore).

The federation will work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), as well as research institutions and institutes of higher learning, on various initiatives.

The federation has four main priorities, a number of which are centred on Singapore's recent push for farms to go high-tech. They are: the setting of standards among farms; boosting productivity and lowering cost; building capacity and developing manpower. The federation also aims to promote local produce among consumers here.

The setting of standards is important for ensuring food safety, especially with new farming types coming up, said Marine Life Aquaculture's Frank Tan during a visit to Sustenir's Admiralty premises on Thursday. Mr Tan is a founding member of the Safef.

A voluntary scheme called the Good Agricultural Practice - a set of farming processes and management practices for the production of safe and quality farm produce - has already been introduced by the AVA for outdoor vegetables in 2004 and for coastal fish farms in 2014. There is also a similar scheme for egg farms, put in place in 1999.

Farms which have been certified under the Good Agricultural Practice scheme will get to carry a logo on their products.

But with the move towards more productive, high-tech forms of farming in land-scarce Singapore, there is a need for the federation to work with the authorities to come up with similar schemes for land-based food fish farming and indoor vegetable farming, said Mr Tan.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, who is in charge of farming issues, told the media at Sustenir on Thursday that Singapore already has measures in place to ensure the safety of produce from all farms. But a voluntary scheme could help raise safety standards for the entire industry and improve Singapore's brand name, he said.

Dr Koh Poh Koon on the formation of a new farming federation

On boosting productivity and building capacity, the federation said in a statement that it hopes infrastructure can be built to help farms share resources, such as cold rooms or packaging areas, and to conduct technology sourcing trips abroad. The sharing of resources will help to reduce capital investments for individual farms and lower operating costs, it added.

There are more than 200 food farms in Singapore, producing less than 10 per cent of Singapore's total food demand. Though small, the local agriculture sector is still an important pillar of Singapore's food security strategy, especially with climate change wreaking havoc on global food supplies. But with agricultural land shrinking, the hope is that farms step up productivity by making use of technology.

On whether the 20 member farms - just 10 per cent of the total number of food farms here - will be able to make an impact in helping to ensure Singapore's food security, Mr Tan says he is confident that they will be able to.

This is because the federation's 20 member farms produce a large proportion of the current food supply, he added.

The four hen and quail egg farms in the federation, for instance, produce almost 100 per cent of locally produced eggs here, while the six fish farms in the group produce some 70 per cent of fish produced in Singapore, said Mr Tan. The 10 vegetable growers which are part of the federation produce 50 per cent of locally produced vegetables.

"The federation is not a big boys' club. We want to help the other farms also, by conducting talks, sharing best practices, to increase the standard of farming so we can produce safe food, and increase food productivity. So local farms play a major role in food security," said Mr Tan.

The federation also wants to boost local demand for home-grown produce here, by working with AVA to carry out regular farmers' markets, for instance. The federation is also working on a made-in-Singapore logo that could help consumers easily identify locally grown produce, similar to a labelling scheme in Norway.

Dr Koh, who is the honorary adviser to the new farming federation, urged Singaporeans to buy local, saying that doing so could help reduce the carbon footprint from importing goods, and support local farmers keen on expanding production. They can also be assured that food produced here is safe and fresh, he said.

"Here, the AVA has control over the quality of the produce, so consumers can also look forward to fresher and safer food produce," said Dr Koh.



Singapore farmers band together to boost sector
New federation also aims to help ensure Republic's food security
Audrey Tan Straits Times 27 Oct 17;

Farmers are banding together to improve the small but important agriculture sector here.

Twenty farms from the livestock, food fish and vegetable sectors have come together to form a farming federation, the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation (Safef).

Members include egg farm Seng Choon Farm, Rong-Yao Fisheries and vegetable farm Sustenir Agriculture (Singapore).

There is another farming coalition, the Kranji Countryside Association, which was formed in 2005 to look after the interests of agribusinesses in the rural north-west. But the new federation will represent agri-food enterprises across Singapore.

It will work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), research institutions and institutes of higher learning in four main areas: standard-setting, boosting productivity and lowering costs, building capacity and developing manpower, and promoting local produce.

Setting standards can help ensure food safety, especially with the move towards more productive forms of farming such as land-based food-fish farming and indoor vegetable farming, said Marine Life Aquaculture managing director Frank Tan, who is also one of Safef's founding members.

There are more than 200 food farms here, producing less than 10 per cent of Singapore's total food demand.

Though small, the local agricultural sector is an important pillar of Singapore's food security strategy, with climate change wreaking havoc on global food supplies.

On whether the member farms - just 10 per cent of the total number of food farms here - will be able to make an impact in helping to ensure Singapore's food security, Mr Tan says he is confident they will, as they produce a large proportion of the current food supply.

The four hen and quail egg farms in Safef, for instance, produce almost all of the locally produced eggs here, while the six fish farms in the group are responsible for some 70 per cent of fish produced in Singapore, said Mr Tan.

The 10 vegetable growers in Safef produce 50 per cent of locally produced vegetables.

"We want to help the other farms by conducting talks and sharing best practices, to raise the standard of farming so we can produce safe food and increase food productivity," said Mr Tan.

The federation also wants to boost local demand for home-grown produce here, by working with AVA to carry out regular farmers' markets, and developing a logo that could help consumers easily identify locally grown produce.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon, who is in charge of farming issues, is the honorary adviser to the new farming federation.

Yesterday, he urged Singaporeans to buy local, saying that doing so could help reduce the carbon footprint from importing goods, and support local farmers keen on expanding production.

"Here, the AVA has control over the quality of the produce, so consumers can also look forward to fresher and safer food produce."

20: Number of farms that have come together to form Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation.

4: The main areas - standard-setting, boosting productivity and lowering costs, building capacity and developing manpower, and promoting local produce - that Safef will work on with AVA, research institutions and institutes of higher learning.


Singapore vegetable farms form trade body
KENNETH LIM Business Times 26 Oct 17;

NINE Singapore vegetable farms have formed the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation (Safef) to address challenges and improve standards for the industry.

George Huang, the emeritus president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, will be the inaugural chairman of Safef.

The nine founding members are Sustenir Agriculture (Singapore), Yili Vegetation & Trading, Sky Greens, Farm 85 Trading, Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, Netatech, Pacific Agro, Bean Farm and Ser Poh Farming & Trading Enterprise.

The immediate priorities of Safef over the next three years will be to set standards and guidelines, raise productivity and lower costs, build capability and develop manpower, and promote local produce.

In a statement, the organisation said that a number of key members wanted an industry group to work with government agencies to implement suggestions and initiatives mooted at the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority's Food Farming Industry Consultation Panel.

Safef will also seek members from related industries such as logistic enterprises, technology providers, research institutions and institutes of higher learning.

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