Singapore farmers can tap on S$63m fund to boost yields, productivity

Channel NewsAsia 25 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: Local farmers can look forward to more financial assistance to transform their farms and nurseries into high-tech, productive plots, after the Government pledged S$63 million to aid their efforts. Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for National Development and Defence, announced the new policy during a visit to Sky Greens farm.

The new Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF) is meant to spur farmers to boost their yields and raise productivity, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a news release on Monday (Aug 25).

Of the S$63 million, S$53 million will be used for farm capability development to support productivity improvements in the farming sector. The remaining S$10 million is earmarked for farms to carry out research and development (R&D) in innovative production technologies, it stated.

This is in addition to the existing S$3.9 million Landscape Productivity Grant administered by the National Parks Board (NParks), which serves to co-fund landscape nurseries' investments in machinery and technology.

In conjunction with these aid initiatives, MND said farms and landscape nurseries will have to meet the following new conditions:

Use at least 90 per cent of the land for farm production or landscape nursery purposes, while the remaining 10 per cent may be used for ancillary purposes.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) farms must meet minimum production levels to qualify for new leases or lease extensions. Landscape nurseries must meet minimum productivity targets and be registered under NParks’ Landscape Company Register and Nursery Accreditation Scheme.

These conditions will be applicable to new farm sites to be tendered out by the AVA, lease extensions for existing farmland, and landscape nurseries managed by NParks, said MND.


MND added that AVA and NParks will offer farmers greater peace of mind in terms of the tenure they have to recoup on investments in the areas mentioned.

"For the farms, AVA will tender new farm sites with a 10-year tenure, and offer existing sites a lease extension of 10 years if they are not required for any future development. These leases can be extended for another 10 years provided the farms meet the minimum production levels and other prevailing criteria, and if there are no redevelopment plans," MND explained.

As for landscape nurseries, there will be a new "3+3+3" tenancy model introduced by NParks. Essentially, the initial tenure for the property will be for three years, and can be renewable up to two further terms of three years each. "The new tenancy model will not require nursery operators to pay land premiums upfront. A monthly rental scheme will be applied instead," NParks stated.

It added that operators will not have to worry about infrastructure costs as NParks will provide connections to utilities such as potable water, electricity and telecommunications cables, sewage pipes and roadways.

"Over the past few months, I have been visiting some of our farms to better understand their operations and concerns. These understandably focus on the cost of technology, land tenures, shortage of manpower, and business continuity," said Dr Maliki.

"With the various funding schemes, AVA and NParks will work closely with the farms and nurseries respectively to help them build up their capabilities, and use more automation and technology to reduce manpower demand and optimise the use of our limited land."

$63m fund, new criteria for farming
Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Aug 14;

Local farmers applying for new leases and extensions must now meet minimum production levels and land use conditions.

The Ministry of National Development announced yesterday that all land-based farms must use at least 90 per cent of their land for production and meet minimum output levels.

These conditions will also apply to non-food farms, such as those which produce ornamental fish and orchids.

Landscape nurseries will also have to meet new productivity targets and land use requirements.

And to help the farmers' productivity efforts, the Government has pledged a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund.

Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman said: "The bulk of the fund is to encourage quantum leaps in productivity, especially in increasing the capacity of our farmers."

Dr Maliki announced these changes during a visit to "vertical farm" Sky Greens in Lim Chu Kang yesterday.

While the new fund will be available from October, the other changes will take immediate effect.

Talking about the new conditions for farmers, Dr Maliki said: "We are quite confident that the minimum standards are not onerous.

The majority of the farms will be able to meet them. We must make sure that the land is fully utilised for the purposes that it was set out for."

In the past, there was no minimum production level for land-based farms and 30 per cent of farmland could be used for ancillary purposes.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will now also offer new farm sites for tender and lease extensions for existing farms in 10-year tenure periods, provided the land meets the required conditions and is not needed for future development.

Previously, lease extensions could be granted in periods of less than 10 years.

These changes will help to create greater certainty among farmers and increase their willingness to invest in new systems such as automation and technology, Dr Maliki said.

Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, chairman of Sky Urban Solutions which runs Sky Greens, an urban farm, said: "The challenge for farmers here is that land is limited. Therefore, we have to produce as much as we can per square metre of land. That is why we need government support."
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