AVA's tender exercise for fish-farming land was fair

Mr Chan Tzeh Wey highlighted that the recent Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) tender exercise for three land parcels for fish farming received lukewarm response, and suggested the AVA revise its scheme to encourage genuine farmers to participate in the tender (Encourage firms with farming experience to bid for tenders; Jan 25).

We, Opal Resources, were one of the bidders and would like to share our view as a fish-farming practitioner in Singapore.

We first thank the AVA for the new fixed-price scheme, instead of going by the highest-bidder model.

This helps keep land cost low and allows farmers a better chance to compete with imported farm produce.

The tender term of 20 years is also fair, as farmers need time to recoup the heavy capital investment.

In fact, we were hoping for an even longer term.

As for the lukewarm response, this could be because there are more marine-based fish farms in Singapore than land-based ones. Hence, naturally, the tender of land for land-based fish farms would attract less interest.

Another reason could also be the difficult conditions for fish farming in Singapore.

Farmers are often on their own due to the lack of strong aquaculture communities and supply chains like that in Thailand or Vietnam.

Important issues, such as the availability of quality fish fry, have plagued fish farmers here for years.

In our case, we saw this bottleneck early and have invested considerably to start our in-house hatchery, since without fish fry, there is no fish farming.

Mr Chan had also suggested extending the tender deadline.

However, this might not improve participation rate, as the AVA made the announcement of the tender back in May last year.

Eight months is a reasonable preparation time, even for new players.

Alex Siow Ching Hai

Managing Director
Opal Resources

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2018, with the headline 'AVA's tender exercise for fish-farming land was fair'. Print Edition | Subscribe