LOCAL farmers applying for new leases and extensions must now meet minimum production levels and land use conditions.
The Ministry of National Development announced yesterday that all land-based farms must use at least 90 per cent of their land for production and meet minimum output levels.
These conditions will also apply to non-food farms, such as those which produce ornamental fish and orchids.
Landscape nurseries will also have to meet new productivity targets and land use requirements. And to help the farmers' productivity efforts, the Government has pledged a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund.
Minister of State for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman said: "The bulk of the fund is to encourage quantum leaps in productivity, especially in increasing the capacity of our farmers."
Dr Maliki announced these changes during a visit to "vertical farm" Sky Greens in Lim Chu Kang yesterday.
While the new fund will be available from October, the other changes will take immediate effect.
Talking about the new conditions for farmers, Dr Maliki said: "We are quite confident that the minimum standards are not onerous. The majority of the farms will be able to meet them. We must make sure that the land is fully utilised for the purposes that it was set out for."
In the past, there was no minimum production level for land-based farms and 30 per cent of farmland could be used for ancillary purposes.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will now also offer new farm sites for tender and lease extensions for existing farms in 10-year tenure periods, provided the land meets the required conditions and is not needed for future development.
Previously, lease extensions could be granted in periods of less than 10 years. These changes will help to create greater certainty among farmers and increase their willingness to invest in new systems such as automation and technology, Dr Maliki said.
Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, chairman of Sky Urban Solutions which runs Sky Greens, an urban farm, said: "The challenge for farmers here is that land is limited. Therefore, we have to produce as much as we can per square metre of land. That is why we need government support."