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Land for farms up for tender, a first in decades

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

A rooftop urban farm in Singapore that uses aquaponics.   TODAY file photo

A rooftop urban farm in Singapore that uses aquaponics. TODAY file photo

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

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