Businesses feel the heat from dry spell

SINGAPORE - The dry spell that has hit Singapore in recent weeks could leave more than burnt grass verges in its wake. Some farmers here are warning that prices of local produce could rise if the country does not receive more rain soon.

This is because many farms have had to up their water consumption significantly.

Hydroponics farm Blooms & Greens, for instance, now has to water the plants in its nursery thrice a day instead of twice, said a spokesman.

The additional use of the automated irrigation system for about an hour every day has led to operation costs increasing by about 20 per cent.

Over at Farm 85 Trading in Kranji, director Tan Koon Hua warned: "(The prices) may increase exponentially."

He added that his water stores might not be sufficient to sustain his crops if the dry spell continues for another two weeks.

The lack of rain has also hit some landscaping companies hard. For instance, Nature Landscapes in Thomson has had to drench the roots of its plants frequently, to "avoid root burn that could result in plant casualty", said a spokesman, who added that it is looking at an "approximate 10 to 15 per cent rise in operating costs" should the hot, dry weather persist.

Despite the rain showers last weekend that provided temporary respite from the dry spell, Singapore and the surrounding region are "still in the dry phase of the prevailing north-east monsoon", said an advisory on the National Environment Agency's (NEA's) website.

A dry spell is defined by the NEA as a period of at least 15 consecutive days with a daily rainfall total of less than 1mm in many parts of the island.

According to the Feb 10 advisory on its website, 33 stations, including the Changi climate station, recorded a daily rainfall total of less than 1mm since Jan 16. The long-term average monthly rainfall for January is 242.2mm, while that for February is 161mm.

Local organic farm Bollywood Veggies showed that a little planning can go a long way in tackling weather woes. Owner Ivy Singh-Lim said: "I knew (the drought) was coming, by looking at how clear the sky had been, the strong winds, and the temperatures in Singapore."

In preparation, she had more ponds dug on her farm to collect enough water to irrigate the property for 12 to 16 weeks.

The last time Singapore experienced similar dry spells was in 2009 and 2011, both lasting about 15 days.

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