Singapore’s government is putting down one kind of green to get some of another.
The Ministry of National Development (MND), Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Parks Board (NParks) have announced a $63 million fund to help boost the country’s farming productivity. The announcement came from the Minister of State for National Development and Defense, Dr. Mohamad Maliki Osman, during a visit to the well-known urban farm, Sky Greens.
“Over the past few months, I have been visiting some of our farms to better understand their operations and concerns,” Osman said. “These understandably focus on the cost of technology, land tenures, shortage of manpower, and business continuity. We have thus worked with AVA, NParks, URA and SLA on these new measures to address the concerns, with the overall aim of productivity improvements to benefit the farms.”
The fund is broken into two sections: (1) $53 million for farm development to support productivity improvements in the farming sector, and (2) $10 million to support farms in working on R&D in productivity tech. APF and AVA will use the funds to invest in transformational farming systems, equipment and infrastructure, and to help both established and new farmers better grow.
“With the various funding schemes, AVA and NParks will work closely with the farms and nurseries respectively to help them build up their capabilities, and use more automation and technology to reduce manpower demand and optimize the use of our limited land,” Osman said. “Land is scarce in Singapore and we must consciously intensify the land used for farms and landscape nurseries.”
Along with the announcement of the available funds, new conditions were given for landscape nurseries to access the $3.9 million Landscape Productivity Grant (LPG), which was established in September of 2013. Nurseries must use at least 90 percent of the land for farm production or landscape nursery purposes, while the remaining 10 percent may be used for ancillary purposes. And, the AVA farms must meet minimum production levels to qualify for new leases or lease extensions, while also meeting minimum productivity targets and be registered under NParks’ Landscape Company Register and Nursery Accreditation Scheme.
There are also built in incentives for farmers to keep their farms going.
“For the farms, AVA will tender new farm sites with a 10-year tenure, and offer existing sites a lease extension of 10 years if they are not required for any future development,” MND said. “These leases can be extended for another 10 years provided the farms meet the minimum production levels and other prevailing criteria, and if there are no redevelopment plans.”
MND also said that operators will not have to worry about infrastructure costs, because NParks will provide connections to utilities such as potable water, electricity and telecommunications cables, sewage pipes and roadways. With so many incentives, they want farmers to get farming.
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