Tue, Oct 12, 2010
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Local farmers get funding boost

By Joy Fang

SINGAPORE'S supply of food produce is expected to be volatile in future, due to factors such as climate change in countries from which Singapore imports food and a growth in domestic demand, said Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development.

To combat the problem, the Government is diversifying Singapore's sources of food supplies by increasing the productivity of local food production and encouraging investment in overseas farming, added Mr Mah.

He spoke to reporters yesterday after a tour of poultry farm Seng Choon Farm's new premises in Lim Chu Kang (above, with Mr Mah).

There, Mr Mah also announced that the Food Fund, launched in December last year, would be doubled from the initial $5 million to $10 million.

The fund, which is managed by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), supports local farms with an emphasis on six key food areas - rice, chicken, pork, fish, eggs and leafy vegetables.

It will also co-fund feasibility studies on investments in overseas food zones, overseas contract farming and sourcing from non-traditional sources.

AVA's chief executive officer, Ms Tan Poh Hong, said: "When we started, we thought $5 million would be enough for the first year.

"But having seen a number of good projects come in, we thought it would not do them justice if we turned them away just because of funding (issues)." The fund has attracted 48 applications, and 24 have been approved, though two of those chose to decline funding.

The 22 other approved applicants consist of vegetable, egg and fish farms.

Money from the fund will be used in various ways. For instance, Kok Fah Technology Farm - a vegetable farm - will automate its vegetable-packaging processes, while fish farm Barramundi Asia will automate its fish-feeding processes.

Seng Choon Farm, one of the approved applicants, will be collaborating with United Engineers Singapore to develop technology to reduce odour emissions, and work on waste management to convert waste to fertilisers.

Its managing director, Mr Koh Yeow Koon, said he hopes that the grade of the farm's fertilisers can be improved, and even exported to other countries.

The additional revenue will help to lower overall production costs, which they can then channel into upping the farm's egg production, he said.

The 14.7ha farm will be increasing its flock size from 500,000 to 800,000 chickens, and aims to up the daily production of eggs from 330,000 to more than 500,000 by early next year. This is expected to meet 12 per cent of local egg consumption, up from the current figure of 8 per cent.

With the Food Fund, the AVA hopes to raise the proportion of eggs produced here from 23 to 30 per cent, fish from 4 to 15 per cent, and leafy vegetables from 7 to 10 per cent in five to seven years.

Currently, Singapore imports about 90 per cent of its food supplies from countries all over the world, such as Brazil, Australia and Malaysia.

Live pigs, for instance, are shipped solely from Indonesia's Pulau Bulan, while chilled or frozen pork comes from countries such as Brazil and Australia.

About 60 per cent of Singapore's rice is imported from Thailand, while all its egg imports come from Malaysia. Vegetables are imported from countries such as China, Malaysia and Australia.


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