Farmers to compete on concept in new land tender

Under the fixed-price tender method, land in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be parcelled out by farm type, such as for leafy vegetables, quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts.
Under the fixed-price tender method, land in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be parcelled out by farm type, such as for leafy vegetables, quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Vegetable farmers face fixed-price tender; proposals judged on factors like innovation

New farmland will be released later this month and, for the first time, the 12 plots for growing leafy vegetables in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be tendered out on concept and not price, the latter of which will be fixed.

This means that farmers growing leafy vegetables will not have to worry about engaging in a price war trying to secure the land. Instead, their proposals will be judged on factors like production capability, track record, relevant experience and qualifications, and whether they can harness innovation to improve and sustain production, and keep their businesses viable.

Under this fixed-price tender method, land will be parcelled out by farm type. The other three types to be tendered out this way, over the next few years, will be for quail eggs, food fish and beansprouts.

The land price will be fixed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's Chief Valuer's Office, which will take reference from prices of agriculture land sold by the Government, a spokesman for the Agri- Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told The Straits Times.

"Apart from past land prices, rents obtained from the leasing of agricultural properties were also considered," she added.

Other plots for general agriculture food farms, such as frog and goat farms, will be tendered using concept and price. Proposals will first be evaluated on concept. Of the shortlisted candidates, the one with the highest bid will then win the tender.

"The difference in approach is that in the concept and price category, the land can be used for a range of farm types instead of a specific one," said the AVA spokesman. "Land price varies depending on the type of farming conducted on the land. As the land price for various farm types is different and the farm type is not fixed, these plots cannot have a fixed price."

Concepts will be judged on the same criteria as those for the fixed-price tender.

The local agriculture sector produces less than 10 per cent of total food supply, but is vital for food security as it serves as a buffer in case of food supply shocks.

The last time land was tendered out for agricultural use was more than two decades ago.

Come end-2021, the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang will run out, and the land will be given over to military use.

In total, the AVA will tender out 36 new plots of farmland on 20- year leases. The plots are in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, and span 60ha in total.

The new plots, however, will not offset the loss in farmland at the end of 2021.

But the hope is to step up Singapore's food security within the constraints of limited land by encouraging the use of high-technology farming in the new plots to boost productivity and yield.

Eden PurelyFresh Farm, formerly known as Eden Garden Farm, will be putting in a bid for the upcoming tender this month.

Chief executive and founder Desmond Khoo, 30, welcomed the fixed-price tender method as one that benefits working farmers who already have a proven track record.

For farmers like him, it also removes the uncertainty of naming the right price to secure the land.

"It is good that the Government is helping us with the land price because, in this way, we can use the money to invest in high-tech equipment and research to increase the farm's productivity and yield."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Farmers to compete on concept in new land tender'. Print Edition | Subscribe