Why I can do a better job than Lawrence Wong of making Singapore self sufficient in the agri sector

May 9, 2017

Lawrence Wong recently mentioned the few and precious plots of land gazetted for farming in Singapore will be tendered out with longer 20-year leases instead of the previously mooted 10-year blocks.

By adopting this lazy boy policy of leaving it entirely to the competitive bidding process where price is the final determinant rather than what actually needs to be crafted to create conditions that will alleviate Singapore’s dependence on global production to fulfil Singapore’s food security imperative – all he and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will ever do is attract businessmen who are likely to use cheap imported labor to farm high yielding crops which can probably realise a good return on investment – that model I don’t doubt may very well make business sense, but it is hardly a coherent strategy to implement a sustainable food security blue print.

For that imperative to be meet Singapore need to train more farmers.

For Singapore to develop farming core competencies that is able to add value to the imperative of food security – it is a matter of strategic precondition to invest in people by further opening up more avenues for our brightest minds to undertake a paradigm shift to hopefully see farming as a credible means of actualizing their life goals.

Many young people in Singapore genuinely want to be fish or crop farmers but they don’t know how to acquire either the skill sets or confidence to do so as it is very much a closed industry cloaked in considerable mystery….steps should be undertaken to break open the unhealthy monopolies of knowledge in this sector like any other sector to make it accessible for the masses.

Hence the criteria for awarding land concession to farm should be based solely on how many farmers can the firm train within a given period of time that fufills the needs of the country’s food security imperative and not simply based on what they are willing to pay for the concession.

Furthermore by doubling the ten year leases all Lawrence Wong is likely to do is entrench the corrosive attitude where Singapore is likely to have the most parochial, insular, laziest and most unimaginative farmers in the whole wide world….in short it is a recipe for disaster.

This is a very instructive lesson in statecraft when a sheep is tasked to do a foxes job….he will sell the shop for five cents.

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‘The way I see it is very cold and calculating – let me speak plainly on this subject if a government is willing to spend X dollars on purchasing a leopard tank and Y dollars to train personnel and Z to amortize its cost to zero thru a given period of time – then it could be said it has reconciled itself to certain immovable realities with the intent to further its security and strategic imperatives.

Then why isn’t it doing the same for food security in land scare Singapore by creating conducive conditions where more young people can gain core skills in farming?

Maybe what I have just written doesn’t quite hit home. Let me try one more time….if you conduct a cursory examination of the agri scene in Singapore. One thing will really only stand out…everyone in AVA knows this, even the jaga in the guardhouse and the tea auntie in AVA office in Jurong knows this…the only person who doesn’t seem to know this is Lawrence Wong that is why he increased the land concession from ten to twenty years – the agri industry in Singapore is all populated by the SAME people who have always been there and they are basically doing the SAME thing albeit with very minor improvements. I call this the media corpes dead wood syndrome (MCDW) – as the phenomenon is not dissimilar to how every year the Singapore arts council will only ever give money to the SAME catchet of prehistoric actors and actresses who are also the SAME people who incidentally churn out the SAME shit that they even have the gall to past off to their terminally bored audience as the arts…..it’s the same shit, different day phenomenon.

You want to know why this classic textbook case of reinforcing failure occurs – it’s because hardly any impetus for new blood to revivify the industry is features in the blue print. Result: some thing akin to an old boy’s mutual appreciation club becomes entrenched in the scene, where the same people who all do the same thing continue to feature and since they all have only a vested interest to perpetuate the status quo ante…they obstruct others from coming into the industry.

I am not exaggerating this how the agri sector really is in Singapore. It is basically filled with the same people who have been doing the same thing who will even proudly tell you and I if you ask them – how long have you been doing this?

Oh it all started with my great great great great Grandfather who first started this so many years ago when Parameswara first saw a lion roaming around here….that’s to say there is new blood coming into the industry and that is the reason why these MCDW’s all need to move out of Singapore and make space for the new order.

I know what I have to say may well come across as counter intuitive but my logic is these SAME people who have always been doing the SAME thing in Singapore should by all logical accounts no longer be here….they should have by now acquired so much core competence in their respective field of farming to expand beyond our shores to Dubai, Indonesia or any other country where the cost of food production is dramatically lower than in Singapore….that is what every food security blue print MUST incorporate as an indelible feature to be sustainable…that is actually how all agri firms grow WITHOUT a single exception….Cargill, ADM and United Foods contrary to popular myth don’t ever grow their cereals and corn in Nebraska or the wheat belt in the USA…they used too, but once they acquire critical mass in these skill of arms – they like their kinsmen in the auto or electronics industry or any other business that has reached a growth maturity cycle in their business, all without exception spread their wings abroad to discover lower cost centers and economies of scale – today only ten percent of all cereals consumed by Americans are grown in the US, they rest are grown in green field sites in Africa, South America and even in the Ukraine where the cost of food production per hectare is dramatically lower than what it can ever hope to be in the US. And this is the ONLY reason why America is able to feed herself the rest of the world – because it has a business ecology where are big boys are forced to move out thereby making room for new blood to come into the farming industry, to renew the industry by revivify it with new and innovative knowledge that can only come from a healthy inflow and outflow of human capital.

But in Singapore it seems that both AVA and Lawrence Wong really only wants to baby no end the SAME useless people who are all doing the SAME useless thing and since no one in AVA ever has the imagination to light a fire under their comfy seat – why are you still here breeding frogs for congee porridge in Geylang for the last three generations? Why aren’t you in Xiamen where the cost is just one tenth? Haven’t you learnt anything in the last three generations how to expand your business abroad? What the fuck is wrong with you? Hey we need this parcel of land to train the next cohort of frog breeders when are you going to grow a brain and move out and make way for new blood? Why are you still relying on government handouts after three bloody generations of doing the same thing? Aren’t you ashamed? Or why are you doing stupid things here like building vertical farming kits to grow bock Choy in Singapore when you should be in Dubai or Israel and don’t even have to bother with that sort of shit as FDI farming projects there enjoy subsidised rates of electricity that will allow you to grow on accelerated lamps at night as well? What the hell is going on man?

As a consequence no new blood can ever revivify the agri sector in Singapore as it’s literally in a fossilized state of stasis….Singapore should never be a place for any business to farm in perpetuity. We don’t nearly have enough land to entertain that sort of entitlement business model – it should ideally just be like an aircraft carrier where one learns the ropes and when the time comes they take right off or crash into the sea whichever and they move out and make room for new blood to come in to do the same – the focus should be on throughput in producing a critical mass of competent Farmers – this in my opinion is the only way to built sustainable core competencies in farming……as it is what does Lawrence Wong do? He rewards ineptitude and a total of failure of imagination by actually capitulating this useless people by extending their land concession by 20 years!

Watching all this unfold is truly unbelievable where I am sitting. I cannot believe this travesty of logic is actually happening and not a single parliamentarian has actually stood up and asked, ‘hey why are you reinforcing failure by awarding this same useless people ten extra years!’

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