SINGAPORE: Singapore’s agricultural sector is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of insufficient demand and soaring operating costs, with the industry experiencing a significant decline in local produce sales compared to the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to industry insiders who spoke to Channel 8 news, the demand for local produce has plummeted by at least 20 per cent, posing a serious threat to the sustainability of Singapore’s farms. While the pandemic saw a surge in interest in locally sourced products, the current scenario has left farms struggling to maintain profitability.

One rooftop farm, utilizing advanced hydroponic technology, told Channel 8 that it has worked towards a tenfold increase in production over the past few years. However, the farm operators stressed that without corresponding demand, the surge in production becomes futile.

“We need the support of the community and various businesses to ensure the sustainability of our operations. Chinese people, in particular, should consider buying more locally produced agricultural products,” emphasized the farm operators.

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Smaller farms, in particular, are grappling with the need for more assistance, citing challenges in covering utility bills and striving to provide competitively priced produce.

One farmer expressed the need to reduce costs to gain a competitive edge against foreign counterparts: “We have to find ways to reduce costs so that in the long run, we can gain a competitive edge against foreign farms.”

The aquaculture industry is also feeling the pinch, with some players reporting a 30 per cent drop in sales compared to the pandemic period.

High operating costs and recent rent increases are cited as major contributors to the industry’s profitability woes.

A plea has been made by an aquaculture farm owner for government intervention, suggesting the construction of buildings tailored for indoor farms.

“If the government can build some buildings specifically tailored for indoor farms like ours, I think it will be good for us, because you can have relatively stable rents,” the farm owner explained.

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In response to the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, a strategic consulting services company has recommended that the government consider lowering the price of land reserved for agricultural facilities. This could alleviate the financial burden on farms, promoting the industry’s long-term sustainability.

As Singapore’s farms grapple with these challenges, the industry looks towards comprehensive government support to ensure the continued viability of local agriculture and food production.