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Jalan Kayu Leases Run Out for Singapore Exporters

By John Dawes

“Ornamental fish trade in danger of drying up.” This dramatic headline appeared recently in The Straits Times, Singapore’s leading newspaper, in reference to the expiration of ornamental fish farm leases at the end of 2010 in the Jalan Kayu area of the island.

Singapore’s ornamental fish exporters located in Jalan Kayu will need to move out of the area by the end of 2010. Courtesy of John Dawes
This matter is not new; it has been doing the rounds since the early 1990s, in fact, with leases being extended several times over this period. Now, though, the land has been assigned for new developments and no further extensions will be granted.

The decision will affect some 16 fish, invertebrate and plant exporters, among which are several of Singapore’s longest-established, best-known and largest companies. The majority of these establishments are not breeding farms, however. They are, mostly, bases where stocks arrive from breeding centers elsewhere in Singapore, neighboring Malaysia and other countries in Asia, and from which these stocks are exported. Therefore, even if none of these companies were to find alternative accommodation, supplies from breeders would not dry up, although it might prove more difficult to process shipments.

Some of the Jalan Kayu-based companies have already begun planning to relocate, while others may choose to shut down altogether, although, as yet, I am not aware of any company having decided to go for this option. Still others may reorganize, perhaps linking up more closely with their own breeding centers elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the situation is complicated. For example, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced on April 1 that it had released four sites occupying a total area of 1.72 hectares (4.25 acres) for tender. However, the total area occupied by the present occupants at Jalan Kayu stretches over 6 hectares (14.83 acres). Not surprisingly, therefore, the Singapore Aquarium Fish Exporters’ Association (SAFEA) raised serious concerns.

SAFEA is not alone in this. Following the publication of The Straits Times article, several comments appeared in the Singaporean press. One referred to the “gradual but sure extermination of a ‘made-in-Singapore’ international product,” accusing the government of seeming to indicate a reluctance to support the industry, despite the fact that the ornamental fish sector “is worth a lot and businesses are apparently thriving.” Another accused the SLA of being heartless, while yet another even suggested moving the ornamental fish sector to the Iskandar Development Region in the neighboring Malaysian state of Johor.

The SLA has responded in the press, stating that it and the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority have identified sites “based on exporters’ preference” and that, in addition to the four sites totaling 1.72 hectares already released, they have “earmarked another 10 state land parcels with a total land area of 4.65 ha [11.5 acres]…for aquarium fish export centre use or other agricultural uses,” giving a grand total of 6.2 hectares (15.3 acres). It has also confirmed that it and the AVA “will continue to work closely with the fish exporters on this relocation.”

While some solution will, no doubt, be found between now and the end of the year, the official letter’s inclusion of the term “…or other agricultural use” could be interpreted as disquieting, since any allocation that exceeds 0.2 hectares (.5 acres) to these “other agricultural” uses, would result in a net decrease of area disposable for the ornamental aquatic export industry, which is currently worth around $100 million Singapore dollars ($73 million U.S. dollars) annually. <HOME>


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Jalan Kayu Leases Run Out for Singapore Exporters

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