Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farms Pte Ltd will cease operations at the end of June this year after more than three decades of operating, said the owner of Sumo Salad at Holland Village Jane Lee on Thursday (4 June), adding that the Government is taking back the land.
On Thursday, Ms Lee shared on Facebook that Mr Oh – who she claimed is her supplier and importer – is troubled by the cost of reinstating the land, and clarified that the decision is not due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SLA [Singapore Land Authority] is taking back their land to build houses,” Ms Lee asserted.
According to Ms Lee, the land needs to be cleared up and re-turf by replanting certain types of grass to meet the requirements of the respective authorities.
Although Mr Oh had saved up an amount of money to meet the requirements, his savings was not enough to cover the cost of “half a million” to carry out the reinstatement of the land.
“Besides for working hard, he is actually very troubled by the reinstatement cost which will cost him near half a mil[lion] quoted by a few contractors,” Ms Lee noted. “He simply can’t afford it.”
She explained that farming is a “tough business”, especially in Singapore, considering the cost of the land and manpower.
Noting that they have been working together for six years, Ms Lee described Mr Oh as a “very down to earth businessman with high integrity”.
“Over the years, he has been keeping our veggies price low, top notch service. At times, we were short of veggies in the very last minute, he will deliver them personally so to meet our demand,” she remarked.
While Ms Lee noticed that Mr Oh has lost weight presently, he explained that his team have been working “insanely hard” during the circuit breaker to meet local demand, which had increased due to panic buying.
“He was up as early as 3am to start work and end work till late night. He wasn’t complaining, in fact he feels it’s a privilege to be able to serve the nation during tough times like this,” she added.
Mr Oh, however, has decided to retire and will not be continuing the farming business anymore.
“I appreciate your kind thought and concerns but Mr.Oh and his family has other plans in mind and they themselves together with their next generations do not wish to continue farming business anymore,” Ms Lee wrote.
Meanwhile, she posted another update earlier (5 June), citing a statement from the farm management which reads, “We have received even more support during these last few months, as many realised that our nation needs locally grown produce in times of disasters and pandemics.”
“Our current land lease has ended and there is no option for renewal because the Government is taking back the land. It’s the end of an era for us but we are looking forward to some much needed rest,” it added.
In the meantime, the farm will still be opened until 30 June 2020.
“Let us wish them the best, I will render my help to Mr Oh and his team and hopefully he will only be required to do reinstatement without re-turf,” Ms Lee wrote.
Netizens questioned why the Govt wants to build houses when the country needs home-grown food
Following Ms Lee’s post on 4 June, many netizens were saddened by the news, especially those who have worked with Mr Oh before.
The post had also sparked the question of why the Government wants to build more houses when it previously had pledged to increase the country’s home-grown food.
One netizen urged the Government to look into the country’s need of having its own resources, as panic-buying increased when Malaysia closed its borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, others went on to suggest solutions to Ms Lee.
Goh Gerald commented that Mr Oh should reach out to the Member of Parliament (MP) to “find a feasible solution to the reinstatement”.
Ms Lee then responded by saying that a few farmers have also sought help from the MP but the reinstatement is an SOP [standard operating procedure] that farmers have to comply.
One netizen wrote that the reinstatement is “common” in the lease contract, but the farmer may not be required to re-turf the land if the Government wants to redevelop it.
Another netizen asked about the alternative land that was offered to Mr Oh and why was it not feasible. Ms Lee replied that the Government offered Mr Oh a plan that can help him to relocate the farm, but the cost to restart a new farm is expensive.
While one netizen wrote that the Government has “effectively weakened” and “destroyed” many of the local industries with its “heartless money approach”, adding that many Singaporean farmers have also faced the same issue.
Govt aims to produce 30% of Singapore nutritional needs locally by 2030, says Minister Masagos
Earlier on 7 March 2019, Minister of Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli had announced in Parliament the “30 by 30” strategy and said that the Government aims to produce 30 per cent of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.
“Singapore is also exposed to the volatilities of the global food market, because we import over 90 per cent of our food supply,” Mr Masagos remarked.
This will include vegetables cultivated in a climate-controlled greenhouse under special LED lighting to maximise yield and fish farmed at sea in contained systems to shield them against toxic algae blooms and oil spills, as reported by The Straits Times on 8 March 2019.
“To get to the ‘30 by 30 vision’, will require our agri-food industry to adopt new solutions to raise productivity, apply R&D, strengthen climate resilience, and overcome our resource constraints,” he added.