Saturday, 18 June 2016

New agriculture land to be tendered on 20-year lease: AVA

Agriculture land leases to be doubled to 20 years; 62 Lim Chu Kang farms will have tenures extended to end-2019
AVA to offer original lease period after getting farmers' feedback
By Tiffany Fumiko Tay, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2016

All new agricultural land will now be tendered on a 20-year lease instead of a 10-year period, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said yesterday.

The new lease periods will come into effect when the next batch of agricultural land comes up for tender next year.

AVA decided to go back to the original lease period of 20 years after receiving feedback from farmers that a 10-year tenure, with a possible 10-year extension - announced by the Government in 2014 - is too short for investing in automation.

AVA chief executive Tan Poh Hong said: "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."

The Government informed 62 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.

However, they have now been told that their tenures will be extended by 21/2 years.

The first tranche of land sales will be launched from early next year due to the extensive land preparation works needed at the sites.

AVA said the lease extension is aimed at giving farms sufficient transit time. The announcement was made during a visit to Seng Choon Farm yesterday by Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon, who lauded the fully automated poultry farm for its use of technology.

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."

Dr Koh later met members of the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) to discuss farming issues. Of KCA's 40 members, 14 are located in Lim Chu Kang, and they must vacate their premises when their leases expire, to make way for army training grounds.

While the exact details of the location and size of the new plots available for tender have yet to be announced, farmers told The Straits Times that one possible area being considered is Neo Tiew Road in the Kranji area.

They said that while they are happy about the lease extensions, they are still worried about the future.

"The ideal lease length for farming is 30 years," said Hay Dairies business director Leon Hay. "We deal with livestock and organic materials that need time to grow and harvest, and time to recoup money invested in technology."

Jurong Frog Farm co-director Chelsea Wan said she will decide whether to keep her farm when more details on the tender process are made available next year.

"It's an open tender, so we need to know how many farms there are and how many plots. If it's going to the highest bidder, I don't think it's an option that we will take," she said.

Mr Tan Koon Hua, 48, director of Farm 85, a vegetable farm, said he may retire if the soil at the new site is not suitable for his crops. His son Tan Liang Zhong, 21, said: "If he retires, it will be a bit tough because these skills take years to learn and I don't think I'll be able to make it on my own."

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