Encourage firms with farming experience to bid for tenders

In May last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) announced that 36 plots of land for food farming on 20-year leases were up for tender, under the new fixed scheme to allow farmers to embrace technology with productivity (Land to be released for new farms to raise food supply; May 12, 2017).

That was a pleasant piece of news for Singaporeans and entrepreneurs alike, and showed the AVA's support towards the industry and building the country's food resilience capability.

However, it came as a surprise to me that it garnered a lukewarm response - only five proposals were received for the three land parcels at Neo Tiew Crescent for fish farming.

My cursory check on those who were successful in their bids showed that only one of the companies may have experience in fish farming.

The AVA should revise its scheme further so that it can encourage genuine farmers to participate in the tender, as 20 years is a very long time to see the results of improved food farming.

At a time when food security is important to Singapore, the way the tenders for these plots of land are awarded is worrisome.

Maybe a further extension of the tender deadline would encourage more companies to participate as well.

Chan Tzeh Wey

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Encourage firms with farming experience to bid for tenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe