Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon has announced on Tuesday (7 March) that food farmers will get more help in adopting technology and navigating the administrative procedures to grow their business under a Farm Transformation Map.
The Minister stated that the Farm Transformation Map aims to guide the transformation of the local farming sector in four areas, which are physical space, innovation, people development and the broader ecosystem.
Farmers can get partial grants to use new productivity-enhancing technology upfront, instead of the current scheme where they wait for reimbursements, starting from April 2017.
Dr Koh also stressed that there is a need to grow the ecosystem, increasing demand for local produce and helping farms seek to finance.
Dr Koh then stated that the Industry Consultation Panel (ICP), which was convened in January this year, pointed out that tight cash flows often limit farmers from investing in more expensive technology.
The Minister said, "The APF will disburse up to 30 percent of the approved funding quantum up front to facilitate the adoption of technology."
He added that the amount will complement the move to increase the tenure of farm lands to 20-year leases.
Farmers can tap three schemes under the APF, which are the Basic Capability Upgrading Scheme, the Productivity Enhancement Scheme, and the Research and Development Scheme.
S$6 million worth of projects has been approved under the APF, which was launched in 2014.
Dr Koh then said that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will also adopt a new account management approach for the farms, which means that each farm will have a dedicated account manager to advise them on business development, technology adoption and financial assistance.
According to the new system, AVA officers will be assigned to 20 farms each. Their task is to help the farmers in these areas. The farms will be grouped according to the food type they produce.
AVA noted that the farms will be grouped according to the food type they produce.
The AVA then stated that while the volume has been on the uptick over the years, only vegetable farms have exceeded the local production target of 10 percent, adding that they now supply 12 percent of domestic consumption volume.
It also noted that for eggs, 24 percent come from local farms, short of the 30 percent target. While for fish, it stands 5 percentage points short of the 15 percent target.
Dr Koh then stressed that local production is important to Singapore’s food security because it provides a critical buffer against global supply shocks, saying that transforming the agricultural industry into a more productive one is the only way to go since there are competing uses for the land.
The Minister said, "We will never have enough land to grow all the food that we need to be self-sufficient. We need to adopt modern practices and embrace technology as a multiplier to do more with less."