20-year farm leases to reap fruits of automation
ALL new agriculture land will be tendered on 20-year lease instead of the previously announced block of 10 years to allow farmers investing in automation ample time to reap returns, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) announced yesterday.
Sixty-two farms in Lim Chu Kang which are affected by redevelopment plans with tenures expiring next year will also have their tenures extended until the end of 2019, AVA said.
The Government had informed these farms in 2014 that their leases would expire in June next year, as the land they occupy will be needed for redevelopment. They were also informed that new farm sites would be available for tender at the end of last year.
Due to extensive land preparation works needed at the new sites, the first tranche of land sales will be launched from early next year, and the lease extension is aimed at giving farms sufficient transit time, AVA said.
On the doubling of the lease period, AVA's chief executive officer Tan Poh Hong said: "Farmers have given us feedback that investing in technology and automation requires a longer payback period.
"The longer 20-year lease tenure will provide more certainty to farms and enable them to invest in intensive, highly productive technologies that operate on minimal manpower," he added.
The announcement was made during a visit to Seng Choon Farm by Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon, where he lauded the fully automated poultry farm for its use of technology and innovation.
Since November, workers at the farm had started using a machine that can sort through 126,000 eggs an hour, more than double the old machine's capacity of 60,000 an hour and cutting working hours by up to three hours per day.
Seng Choon now produces 500,000 eggs daily, which are about 10 per cent of the local consumption, and aims to increase production to 700,000 daily by 2020.
Dr Koh, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "Farming is an important sector, even though it's a small part of our economy, because it is one way in which we can ensure our food security.
"While we import most of our food from overseas, there will always be a risk of disruption to our food supply, so having some degree of farming capability locally will ensure that we have a means to cope with sudden supply disruptions.
"Farms which bid successfully for new sites can learn from Seng Choon and leverage on new technology and innovation," said Dr Koh.