Lately many people seem to be wondering if agricultural development could succeed in Singapore. Kenny Eng, the president of the Kranji Countryside Association, seems to think so suggesting that the farms in Singapore should be valued for more than the economic productive capabilities that they possess. They question is why agriculture couldn’t be a success? What is holding it back? And how could Singapore tackle these issues?
The country took its initial step towards transforming the local farming sector when the government announced a plan to overcome the constraints and develop a generation of agriculture specialists. This policy attention may signal the start of a success story, but there are a few key issues that they will have to overcome on the road to this.
Bringing agriculture back
The problem faced in Singapore is that small farms were side lined due to the country’s focus on rapid industrialization. In 2014, only 1% of the land was used for agricultural purposes, a number which later shrank to 0.5%. In order to bring agriculture back to the country, the government will need to focus on land intensification.
Erratic climate and geopolitical uncertainties
The country currently imports a large majority of its food, approximately 90% according to AVA, due to the country’s geopolitical uncertainties and erratic climatic conditions. In order to transform Singapore’s agricultural industry, farms will need to increase their productivity in spite of such issues. This can be done through the use of technology and modern techniques like robotics and vertical farming.
Technology will need to be adopted
This is not as simple as it sounds. Agricultural technology has yet to make its mark in Singapore and this is partly a result of limited financial aid, limited farming tenures and the high risk involved with adopting them. While upfront government grants may help farmers to buy and install the machine, it doesn’t help them to tackle the issues involved with farming such as a degraded environment and unsuitable soil.
These problems could be limited with a serious focus on investment, which would allow farmers to use biotechnology. It could help the country to foster a healthy ecosystem and adjust the crop yield with gene editing. Investments would also help the country to uplift the small farms, reversing some of the damage caused by rapid industrialisation and encourage a rural lifestyle amongst the people.
How will success be judged?
When discussing the quantities of food production that will be considered a success for the country, the government will need to consider the way that they measure it. Will they be looking at the success in terms of investment or yield? Will they take the indigenous products into account or simply the core items of food? Perhaps places like the Singapore employment pass agency measure it by an increase in the number of farmers.
To conclude, agriculture could be a success story for Singapore, reducing their need for food imports in a few generations, if the correct policies are implemented.
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