Fate of 62 Lim Chu Kang farms still remains uncertain

A vegetable farm in Lim Chu Kang. Farmland currently takes up about 1 per cent of Singapore's land.
A vegetable farm in Lim Chu Kang. Farmland currently takes up about 1 per cent of Singapore's land.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Future of 62 Lim Chu Kang farms uncertain, new farmland sales to be launched in 2017

Productivity will be one of the key considerations in deciding whether or not to extend a farm's lease, said Ms Tan Poh Hong, chief executive of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) yesterday.

"Our premise has always been (that) if the land is meant for agricultural use, you use it productively, it is likely that you could get an extension either on your own land, or even replacement land," she said.

She was responding to a question on land security in Singapore from an audience member at the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference yesterday after a presentation on national food security.

Uncertainty remains for the future of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang, with the Government announcing in June that they would have to move out by the end of 2019 to make way for the Defence Ministry's new training grounds. To give farms more time, the AVA had pushed back the original deadline of 2017.

Affected farmers will be able to bid for new farmland early next year, but exact details of the location and new plot sizes have yet to be announced. The first tranche of land sales will be launched in 2017, AVA said yesterday.

Ms Chelsea Wan, whose Jurong Frog Farm is among those affected, said the Government's stand that farms have to be productive has never changed, but other factors should be considered, such as farming's role in Singapore's history.

Farmers have also pointed out a move could cost them millions to build new infrastructure, and move animals and farm equipment.

Farmland currently takes up about 1 per cent of Singapore's land. Close to 600ha has been allocated to over 200 farms for the production of food and non-food items.

AVA told The Straits Times yesterday that it has been engaging the farmers to better understand the challenges they are facing and gathering their thoughts and feedback. For instance, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry, visited 22 of the farms in September to hear their concerns.

"The Government is also supporting these farms with funding for technology adoption and research and development," said AVA.

"While we may be small in size, we believe that we can be a useful living lab for urban farming solutions and new technologies, and at the same time transform the local agricultural sector."

Speaking yesterday, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong urged farmers to embrace technology.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Productivity a key factor in farm lease extension: AVA'. Print Edition | Subscribe