For the first time in more than two decades, the Government is releasing land for new farms so that more of Singapore's food supply can come from local sources.
Starting in August, the Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will tender out 36 new plots of farmland in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah on 20-year leases.
They span a total of 60ha, the equivalent of 60 football fields.
But the new plots will not make up for the loss of farmland that kicks in by the end of 2019.
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The leases of 62 local farms in Lim Chu Kang and Kranji will run out then and the land will be used by the military. The AVA did not respond to queries on their total plot size but The Straits Times understands that it is larger than 60ha.
But even though overall farmland in Singapore will shrink, the AVA is hoping that better technology will raise the yield in the new plots.
Experienced farmers with good track records who are willing to adopt high-tech farming methods will stand a good chance of winning the bids, the AVA said yesterday.
"It is not simply for the sake of using a lot of high-end technology, with plenty of bells and whistles, but about how the farmers harness that technology," said AVA chief executive Tan Poh Hong.
She pointed out that vegetable farm Kok Fah Technology Farm, for example, had cut its manpower needs by 30 per cent through the use of automated seed sowing, irrigation and packing.
The Government wants to step up Singapore's food security within the constraints of limited land.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday that local farmers can buffer themselves against overseas supply disruptions.
The target is to have more food produced locally - 30 per cent of eggs, 15 per cent of fish and 10 per cent of leafy vegetables, Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said in March.
Last year, local farms managed to produce only around 24 per cent of eggs and 10 per cent of fish consumed here. They managed to exceed the target for leafy vegetables.
"Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need," said Mr Wong.
Currently, less than 1 per cent of land here is marked for farm use.
There are a total of 358 licensed farms in Singapore, of which 212 are food farms and the rest are non- food farms.
To explain the tender process, the AVA held three briefing sessions with 185 farmers at its Jurong East headquarters yesterday. It will also conduct advisory sessions before each tender launch for farmers who are unfamiliar with putting up tender proposals.
But reactions among farmers were mixed. Not all were keen about the new tenders, citing difficulties in financing or the cost of new technology.
Quail egg farmer William Ho, 51, of Lian Wah Hang Quail Farm, said those who will not make the cut are likely to be older farmers who do not have the capital to reinvest in another 20-year farming career.
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