Orchid nurseries to move to designated land

In the effort to promote more efficient use of land, NParks said more than 20ha of land have been allocated to orchid nurseries, about half the 40ha being occupied by growers now.
In the effort to promote more efficient use of land, NParks said more than 20ha of land have been allocated to orchid nurseries, about half the 40ha being occupied by growers now.PHOTO: TNP FILE

Over 20ha set aside in Lim Chu Kang, Sungei Tengah; plots in tenancies of 3 and 10 years

Orchid nurseries now dispersed in various locations will have to move to designated areas in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah, on land being set aside for the first time to growing the blooms so closely identified with Singapore.

In the effort to promote more efficient use of land, National Parks Board (NParks) said more than 20ha of land have been allocated to orchid nurseries, about half the 40ha being occupied by growers now.

NParks, which took over the management of orchid nurseries from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority on Jan 1, disclosed the move yesterday in a briefing to orchid nursery operators.

"As land in Singapore is scarce, land use requirements are periodically reviewed. In this context, when tenancies and leases of existing nursery operators end, they may not receive extensions," said Mr Sim Cheng Hai, group director at NParks, in a statement to The Straits Times yesterday.

"The land is required by the State for other planned uses. To address this, NParks has worked with agencies to inform operators as early as possible so they may make plans."

The agency, which oversees all plant nurseries, said it is looking into allocating more land to meet the needs of the orchid industry beyond the initial 20ha.

The change means that nurseries operating outside the designated areas will have to shut when their current leases end and they fail in their bids to acquire a new plot.

Nurseries operating in the designated areas will have to rebid for plots when their leases are up.

Singapore has some 20 orchid nurseries, and the value of exports was about $11.7 million in 2016, according to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.

Mr Sim said NParks "will continue to work with the orchid nurseries and explore ways to transform their operations, so as to enhance productivity and be more efficient in land use".

Some growers said it might be too expensive for them to relocate. Mrs Teo Cai Ying, 41, co-owner of family business Woon Leng Nursery, estimated the cost of moving from their current premises in Jalan Lekar to be about $3 million.

She said: "Our greenhouses now occupy about 3,000 sq m built over many years. We cannot afford to rebuild everything."

She said the nursery will appeal to extend the lease when it runs out at the end of next year. Otherwise, they will shut the business.

Her concerns were shared by Mr Jack Lim, director of Yik Zhuan Orchid Garden in Lim Chu Kang.

The lease for the current premises ends in 2021.

"To dismantle the greenhouses, transport them to the new location and set everything up from scratch will be very costly," he said, adding that the orchids may also be affected by the move.

He plans to wait for more details before deciding whether to bid for the designated plots next year.

"Our hope is we won't have to move," he said.

Land parcels will be available in two tenancy models - 1ha plots will be available with a renewal every three years, while 2ha plots will be available with a renewal every 10 years.

NParks said the three-year tenancy model would benefit nurseries which prefer to pay monthly rental fees rather than an upfront land premium, while the 10-year tenancy model would require an upfront payment of the land premium and will benefit nurseries which plan to invest substantially in their operations.

The plots "will come with some basic infrastructure built up to the front gate," said NParks, adding that the move will enable "nurseries to quickly move in, kick-start operations, and defray upfront capital investments".

The first four plots will be released for tender progressively from June, in two tranches.

Wee Lee Nursery operations manager Sam Goh, 45, said: "If all orchid nurseries are concentrated in a certain area, it may attract more tourists to come and buy orchids from us," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Orchid nurseries to move to designated land'. Print Edition | Subscribe