3 land parcels awarded under new tender mode

Price evaluated only after quality of bids assessed; plots awarded for agriculture
Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 19 Feb 19;

Three land parcels have been awarded for agriculture on 20-year leases at Sungei Tengah near Choa Chu Kang through a new tender process, which first looks at quality, then price.

Applicants were first assessed on their production capability, production track record, relevant qualifications and innovation and sustainability under the new Concept and Price tender method. Those who passed were then evaluated on price, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said yesterday.

These companies submitted proposals that incorporated productive and innovative farming systems, such as a recirculating aquaculture system for shrimp farming with auto loaders and feeders and sensors to monitor water quality, and a climate-controlled greenhouse with automatic conveyor belts for growing ornamental aquatic plants.

"There has been strong interest from local companies that propose productive, innovative and sustainable proposals," said Mr Melvin Chow, AVA's group director for food supply resilience.

"We hope to see continued efforts to transform the industry to optimise the use of land, reduce reliance on unskilled labour, and bolster Singapore's food security."

One parcel was for food farming. The 11,900 sq m site went to a bid of $432,100 from hatchery Opal Resources.

The other two sites, for non-food agriculture, measure about 11,000 sq m each. Euth, which is the holding company for aquatic plants dealer Oriental Aquarium, was awarded one for $509,000 while Aquarium Iwarna, which deals in ornamental fish, offered $533,000 for the other.

Opal Resources managing director Alex Siow said he plans to run a hatchery and fish farm on the awarded land, together with partner firm Oceanus Group.

While he came up a winner under the Concept and Price tender method, he hopes that the AVA will use the fixed-price method, in which site prices are fixed by the authorities and farmers are judged solely on the concept of their bid, more.

"I think the concept and price method is good if there is a good sample of previous prices, but for farming I can't find any good sample to use as a guide," he said.

Two other land parcels for food farming in Lim Chu Kang that were made available in the same tender window were not awarded as no proposals met the tender requirements. These sites will be re-tendered in the second quarter of this year.

In 2014, 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang were affected by a move to convert farmland into military training grounds. The farms were told that they would have to move out between 2017 and 2021 when their leases expired, and the authorities said they would work with affected farm owners on the issue.

Some farms received short-term extensions to their leases subsequently.

In May 2017, the AVA said it would tender out 36 new plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah on 20-year leases, in areas that were not far from the affected farms.