Technology is no magic bullet for S'pore's farms

The Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) community is heartened to know that local farmers play an important role in Singapore's food security plan (Parliament: More help given to farmers to boost productivity, manpower; ST Online, March 7).

We urge the Ministry of National Development to look at technology and intensification as just part of the enablers for productive and sustainable farms, and not as magic bullets.

From our experience, many farming technologies are expensive and have not been proven to work in Singapore yet.

Adopting unproven and costly technologies risks escalating costs that will require more government help or end in grief.

The KCA is also surprised by the absence of a concrete plan to enhance the natural and social ecosystem that supports a robust agricultural industry.

Such an industry goes beyond intensive primary production, and needs to be guided by a bold vision and masterplan for our countryside, where Singapore's farms are clustered.

The 62 farmers slated to be relocated - and many others - seek answers to the necessity of the expensive relocation exercise.

Our farmers remain worried that tweaks to the agriculture productivity fund do not address the serious harm to livelihoods that the move will cause. Many farms may not even stay in business.

Agriculture has intrinsic value for education, conservation and tourism.

The preservation of heritage farms should not be seen as a blow to food production but as a boost.

Though the countryside takes up less than 1 per cent of Singapore's land area, it can achieve multiple goals.

Its holistic development should be central to policies to improve the agricultural industry.

Singapore has a golden opportunity to lead the region in embracing a new way of thinking about agriculture in a city.

To this end, the KCA will continue to focus on building an agricultural industry, a community and future leaders.

We hope for more balanced government policies to encourage not just productive farms but also a vibrant countryside.

Kenny Eng

President

Kranji Countryside Association

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Technology is no magic bullet for S'pore's farms'. Print Edition | Subscribe