Coronavirus: New $30m grant launched to speed up local production of eggs, vegetables and fish

In 2019, local farms produced 14 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed here. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A $30 million grant has been launched to help local farms ramp up their production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish over the next six to 24 months.

The 30x30 Express grant will help accelerate local food production in the shortest time possible, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources in a joint statement on Wednesday (April 8).

The 30 by 30 goal - to produce enough food here to meet 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs by 2030 - is part of the Republic's strategies towards achieving long-term food security. Currently, less than 10 per cent of food is grown locally.

The open grant call, which will be launched in the middle of this month, will call on local agri-food players producing the three food types to submit their proposals to grow more, and faster.

The grant will let successful applicants defray upfront costs to increase production capacity within the next six to 24 months, including the co-funding of technology systems that will raise productivity on the farms.

Fish, leafy vegetables and eggs are the three most commonly consumed food items in Singapore. In 2019, local farms produced 14 per cent of leafy vegetables, 26 per cent of eggs and 10 per cent of fish consumed here.

During the supplementary budget debate on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Covid-19 has underscored the importance of further strengthening Singapore's supply chain resilience and food security, adding that several Members of Parliament have urged the Government to further develop local food production capabilities.

"In my ministerial statement on the Resilience Budget, I spoke about our efforts to deal with the immediate challenges, by having a robust, multi-pronged strategy to ensure a stable supply of safe food and essential items. We have been working on this for years, and will continue to do so, " Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said.

Co-founder of Comcrop Allan Lim said that the grant will help accelerate plans to scale up production.
The company, which set up the first commercial urban rooftop farm here in 2014, is now test-bedding the growth of leafy Asian greens such as xiao bai cai and cai xin in the 6,000 sq ft greenhouse atop an industrial building in Woodlands. It produces 50kg of leafy greens every day to supply to supermarkets here.

The firm hopes to build seven more such greenhouses on the rooftop farm - which is about 80,000 sq ft - within the next six to eight months and expand production capacity by up to 10 times, said Mr Lim.

He added that the farm has spent years acquiring and test-bedding advanced farming systems, and figuring out what works.

"It's time to put into use what we already know. We are all ready to scale up."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said: "It is important that these efforts are augmented by the support of consumers.

"Demand from consumers will spur our farmers to become more productive, and allow them to reap the benefits of economies of scale. This, in turn, will bolster our food security, and create good jobs for our people."

The new grant will serve to complement SFA's existing Agriculture Productivity Fund, which aims to help farms here boost productivity by incorporating sustainable technologies into their farming systems.

To further bolster food production, the agencies will also work to identify industrial spaces and vacant sites that can double as alternative farming spaces.

From next month, the SFA will launch a tender for rooftop spaces on HDB multi-storey carparks to be used for urban farming.

In addition, a multi-agency task force, headed by Mr Masagos, has also been formed to drive inter-agency efforts. The taskf orce will address challenges in the setting up and expansion of farms and ensure that the farms are highly productive, sustainable and resilient, said the agencies.

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