First batch of Tengah flats in Nov 2018

May 13, 2018

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HDB has always challenged itself to do better and break new frontiers, in imagining and planning each HDB town and estate.

Aerial_Marine Parade

Take for instance Marine Parade, which was made possible only through our land reclamation efforts. Over time, it has become a cherished home for many Singaporeans.

It will be no different for Tengah, our first new town in over 20 years. In November this year, we will be launching our first flats in Tengah. It will be a substantial offering of around 1,500 flats, with a good mix across different flat-types.

Over the next few years, we will continue to have a steady stream of Tengah flats. When completed, Tengah Town will grow to about 700 hectares, roughly equivalent to Bishan in size.

2pixin1In planning for Tengah, we wanted a town that is unique, like no other HDB town in Singapore. We have conceptualised it as our first “Forest Town”, and a green theme permeates the entire town.

Tengah will be integrated with the surrounding greenery and rich biodiversity, and feature a car-free town centre. It will be a green, car-lite, and pedestrian-friendly town.

With the recent announcement of the 24-km Jurong Region Line (JRL), residents in Tengah can also look forward to excellent connectivity, with four JRL stations connecting the town to Jurong Innovation District, Jurong Lake District and beyond. Within Tengah, we are also looking to enhance last-mile connectivity through autonomous vehicles.

We look forward to working with Singaporeans to make Tengah a home treasured by generations to come, a place where precious memories and community bonds are formed.

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High-Tech Farming in Singapore

May 9, 2017

Some of you may have read about local fish farm Apollo Aquaculture opening a new high-tech joint venture farm in Brunei a few months ago. This helps to reduce the risk of supply disruptions by diversifying our food sources.

Another way to enhance our food security is to grow our food locally. Our farms are an important source of vegetables, eggs and fish. Local production provides a buffer against overseas food supply disruptions.

Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need. However, new farming technologies allow us to significantly boost our production levels. Not only will this provide us with more locally grown food, it will also help our farmers scale up their businesses.

The Government will do more to help farmers adopt these new technologies. Some have already come on board.

For example, Yili farm is using taller growing houses and semi-automated curtain systems for better ventilation and temperature control. They have also installed curved plastic roofs to protect against the elements.

Yili’s vegetables are now growing better and harvesting losses have been reduced. Farm worker productivity has also increased as they can now work in the growing houses even during hot afternoons.

Another example is coastal fish farm, Marine Life Aquaculture (MLA). Previously, MLA needed over a week to manually transfer 100,000 fish fingerlings using plastic containers from their land-based nursery on Pulau Ketam to sea-cages 100 metres away.

MLA knew that there was a better way so they invested in a live fish pump. The same task can now be done in a day! Using a scanner with imaging technology, MLA is even able to track and count the number of fingerlings automatically during this process.

A modern agriculture sector will continue to play a key role in Singapore’s future, even as our economy evolves and our society becomes more urbanised.

This is why we have set aside new plots of farm land in Singapore for productive and high-tech farming.

These plots will be tendered out with longer 20 year leases, compared to the earlier blocks of 10 years announced previously. This follows from feedback we’ve received from farmers that they needed a longer period to recover the investments for new technologies. Furthermore, in assessing the proposals for these new farm plots, we will place greater emphasis on quality and productivity considerations.

AVA will release more details on the farm land tenders soon.

We hope both existing and new farmers will participate, and work with us on this journey to transform our farms.

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Choosing a Home for Life

March 24, 2017

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I read a recent Lianhe Zaobao article (15 Mar) which highlighted the high prices of several short-lease HDB flats in the resale market.

While resale flats are transacted on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, I was concerned by the suggestion that some buyers are forking out high prices for older flats, in anticipation of the benefits of the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, or SERS.

But SERS, as the name implies, is on a selective basis.

It is only offered to HDB blocks located in sites with high redevelopment potential. These are typically sites where the land has not been well utilised. It is also subject to the availability of suitable replacement sites for residents and the Government’s financial resources.

This is why only 4% of HDB flats have been identified for SERS since it was launched in 1995.

We will continue to maintain this strict selection criteria.

So please do not assume that all old HDB flats will be automatically eligible for SERS.

In fact for the vast majority of HDB flats, the leases will eventually run out, and the flats will be returned to HDB, who will in turn have to surrender the land to the State.

As the leases run down, especially towards the tail-end, the flat prices will come down correspondingly.

So buyers need to do their due diligence and be realistic when buying flats with short leases. This is especially important for young couples, who have to plan for a much longer future.

Hence, when we enhanced the CPF Housing Grant at the recent Budget, I had advised first-time home-buyers to choose a resale flat with a sufficiently long lease to cover their needs.

How long should the lease be?

Our average life expectancy today is close to 85 years.

One possible guide is to buy a flat that covers you and your spouse to age 95. This would cover most of us for life and give us peace of mind in our golden years.

So a 30-year-old couple could consider resale units with leases that are 65 years or longer. And there are many such options in the resale market today.

With a longer lease, you can benefit from the appreciation in property value in the medium-term, especially after factoring in the Government’s housing grants and subsidies.

Later, when your life circumstances change, such as when your children have grown up and moved into their own homes, you have the option of unlocking the value of your flat by right-sizing to a smaller flat. You can then consider a new 2-room Flexi flat (with leases varying from 15 to 45 years) or a flat in the resale market.

Besides seniors, there may also be other buyers who are interested in cheaper, shorter-lease resale flats. This could include those who are going through a transition in their lives, and are not ready to commit to a longer lease just yet.

Over time, we can expect a more diverse HDB resale market, with flats of varying leases to cater to the different life-cycle needs of Singaporeans.

So I encourage potential homebuyers to sit down with your loved ones, work out your budget and needs, and choose a home wisely.

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5th in food security: Not Bad

September 30, 2014

Food security remains a global challenge.  How countries fare are regularly tracked.  For example, the Economist Intelligence Unit publishes its annual Global Food Security Index (GFSI) covering 109 countries around the world. GFSI measures three key areas: i) Availability, ii) Affordability and iii) Quality and Safety of food.

Singapore’s challenges are especially acute as we are inevitably highly reliant on food imports. But challenges can be addressed with sound policies and practical strategies. Despite our handicap, we can still ensure that food is available, safe, nutritious and affordable for all.

We have been tracking our progress on the GFSI score.  Last year, Singapore ranked 16th.  This year, we came up 5th.

Moving up 11 notches on the GFSI for a tiny city state without much agricultural land is no mean feat.

Although we import over 90% of our food, we support some local production to play a useful complementary role. Last month, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) launched a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to help our local farmers boost yields and raise productivity.  Our ambition is for our local farms to, over time, transform into a high tech and progressive one.

The improvement in our GFSI ranking was mostly due to (a) stability in our local production, (b) sufficiency of supply, and (c) having a nutrition plan in place.

We have also scored well in the new indicator for food loss. Our programmes and R&D projects to reduce food losses in the early stages of food production, which include post-harvest handling techniques, cold chain management, and conversion of food manufacturing waste, have been notable.  Meanwhile, we must press on with reducing general food wastage among consumers.

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An OIE Recognition of Excellence

July 1, 2014

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has endorsed VPHC as Southeast Asia’s first OIE Collaborating Centre for Food Safety, serving the Asia and Oceania region.

Picture1bVPHC (Veterinary Public Health Centre) is the cornerstone of AVA’s integrated food safety programme. VPHC laboratories conduct stringent food safety tests on food products, and comprise a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and scientists who provide a comprehensive range of analytical services.

From its humble beginnings in the 1970s as a basic meat testing laboratory, VPHC has over the years grown to be a state-of-the-art facility in Lim Chu Kang. The OIE recognition is an important milestone.

Food safety is of paramount importance to our people. With food imports coming in from countries all over the world, cross-border checks are critical to ensuring that our food supply is safe. AVA and VPHC play a crucial role.

With the support of VPHC as an OIE Collaborating Centre, AVA will be in a better position to keep abreast of emerging challenges in food safety, and new developments in international standards and regulations. AVA will also have the opportunity to extend its technical expertise, comprehensive laboratory testing services and training programmes to the region. This will enhance the overall food safety in the region, a source of many of our food imports.

The OIE recognition comes in time of VPHC’s 10th anniversary in Lim Chu Kang this year.

Congratulations, AVA and VPHC!

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Reducing Food Waste

July 10, 2013

Reducing Food Waste

Recent media reports of rapidly rising food waste in Singapore deserve attention and practical action. With millions around the world starving or malnourished, it is not right that good food is wasted in Singapore.

AVA is doing its part. It has developed an innovative product under its R&D initiative: a vegetarian version of the popular snack, meat floss.

Okara, a Japanese word for soybean pulp, is a by-product from soy milk production. At least 30 tonnes of Okara is generated in Singapore every day. Currently, it is disposed off as food waste at a cost to the companies, or for use as an animal feed.

OkaraBut there is now a new option – Okara floss as food. And it is a 100% vegetarian product. This is AVA’s latest 3R initiative to Reduce, Recycle and Recover for food resilience.

I have sampled the Okara floss : it is tasty! We invite interested companies to take this innovation to the market, so that more people can get to enjoy it.

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More Food from Myanmar

March 11, 2013

More Food from Myanmar

Just now in Parliament, SPS Dr Maliki spoke about how AVA works closely with our food industry to diversify our food sources. We conduct regular overseas trade missions to potential sources such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and further away such as South America.

We are particularly hopeful of Myanmar becoming a good food source for us. It is nearby and a fertile country. It used to be a major rice exporter in the past.

With this in mind, SMS Lee Yi Shyan led a business delegation to Myanmar last year. One possible item is vegetables. Already, some traders in the delegation are keen to bring in chillies, to test our local market’s reception. AVA will also facilitate partnerships between Singaporean farmers and Myanmar supply chain partners.

Another potential item is seafood. The Myanmar seafood sector is well developed, and if prices are competitive, our traders will be keen. Though I do not promote the eating of salted tuna fish (from health view point), I certainly recall growing up eating salted fish from Myanmar, then called Burma! One of my favourites then was curry salted tuna fish, with long beans.

While there are some concerns about inadequate/lack of suitable infrastructure, Myanmar holds a lot of promise. Through more exchanges and transfer of technical expertise from AVA, I believe Myanmar farmers will, over time, be able to increase their food exports to Singapore. Our traders can also help support technology transfers to achieve win-win outcomes.

Expect to see more Myanmar vegetables and seafood on our dining tables.

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