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Beginner’s Guide on Starting an Agricultural Business in Singapore
The global economy is becoming more complex daily, but some sectors remain constant as foundational necessities. Of these, agriculture is a crucial industry for economic development, and food security and sustainability. The agricultural business, or agribusiness, is a trending entrepreneurial venture to invest in, currently being driven by technology. In this guide, we explore the necessary steps towards starting an agricultural business in Singapore.
Agribusiness includes working arable land, harvesting, processing and packaging, as well as distribution and export. Singapore’s Government is a strong proponent of the agri-technology sector, aiming to be leaders in urban agriculture. The Government’s ’30 by 30′ target has set 2030 as the year that Singapore achieves 30% self-sufficiency in food.
Singapore, as an island nation, does not have huge swathes of farming land. However, technology has alleviated land scarcity by facilitating alternative and innovative solutions. Concepts such as urban and vertical farming, multi-storey hydroponics and aquaculture are becoming popular. Weaving through it all is technology that drives innovation and provides solutions to Singapore’s challenging urban landscape.
Keep on reading if you’re keen to begin your entrepreneurial journey and become an agri-specialist in Singapore. Our guide covers everything from registering a company to licensing requirements. Do reach out to our Singapore corporate service provider team for assistance or a quick chat. Professional help does come in handy, and we’re happy to clear any doubts you may have.
What is an Agricultural Business?
Agriculture is a big and varied business that involves more than just planting crops and rearing livestock. It is now a multi-level, ‘farm to global consumers’ table’ kind of business. It encompasses the spectrum from food processing to sales and marketing of all types of agricultural commodities. Further, the supply chain is complex, diversified, and global, providing plenty of opportunities for the savvy entrepreneur.
With the advent of technology, agribusiness now includes using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data to improve farming techniques. In Singapore, this translates to high-tech farming solutions that utilise space and resources. For example, aquaculture farmers adopt multi-use technology by planting vegetables atop their fish farms. Vertical farming is also popular and spaces such as rooftops and shopping malls are being conscripted for the agribusiness.
How to Go About Starting a Business in Singapore
Singapore ranks second in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index. It is a global commercial hub, resplendent with world-class infrastructure and a thriving innovation ecosystem. It also has one of the most competitive tax regimes globally, with corporate tax at 17%. Further, Singapore has signed Double Taxation Agreements with eighty countries worldwide.
As far as agriculture is concerned, Singapore’s agri-tech and disruptive agri-food innovations are a market leader in ASEAN. Investments ranged around S$240.8 million in 2019, while global accelerators have shown keen interest in the agriculture start-up ecosystem.
A good starting point for your agricultural business in Singapore is registering your company. For this, you can read our comprehensive guide to company registration. It provides informative reading for entrepreneurs and a sensible step-by-step guide to incorporate a business.
Singapore company registration is done online, with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) via the Bizfile platform. This e-filing process includes name search, filing of tax number, GST registration, and corporate bank account application. It’s pretty straightforward, and provided all documentation is in order, your company should be up within a day.
What Approvals Do You Need for an Agricultural Business in Singapore?
Compliance can be a thorny issue that adds unnecessary stress to setting up and running a successful business. If you’re starting an agricultural business in Singapore, you may require some assistance, especially with permits and licenses. As a business solution firm, 3E Accounting provides comprehensive Singapore company incorporation services, including handling compliance matters.
Land or space for agricultural activities falls under the purview of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The streamlining of planning guidelines are facilitating the growth of agribusiness in Singapore. URA’s 2019 Circular explains the process for land and buildings to be utilized for agricultural purposes.
As of 2019, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority no longer exists. The following agencies currently oversee licensing and approvals for agricultural businesses in Singapore:
- Singapore Food Agency (SFA)
- Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS)
- National Parks Board (NParks)
Generally, you will need a farm licence from the SFA. Other approvals will relate to the type of agricultural activity your company does, such as:
- Crops and vegetable farming
- Poultry or dairy cattle farm
- Fish farming
- Ornamental farms (for plants, fish or birds)
- Business-related to animals and birds, or controlled plants
Is Export an Option for Agricultural Business in Singapore?
Urbanization has made Singapore quite dependent on imports to ensure food security and sustainability. As of 2019, Singapore’s agricultural imports amounted to USD10.1 billion, with the top imports being seafood products. Surprisingly, the city-state does export agricultural products, but regulations are tight to ensure a balanced food supply.
The SFA regulates export activities and approvals you need to send food out of Singapore. After meeting stringent quality checks, you may need to apply for a Trader’s Licence, export documentations and other approvals. However, some types of exports may be exempt from this, and it’s best to check with the relevant authorities.
The SFA also provides the Free Sale Certificates and Export Health Certificates for traders. Some of the products that you can export include:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Meat and fish
- Processed eggs
How to Apply for Licences and Permits for a Singapore Agricultural Business
License application begins by engaging a Qualified Person to submit your Farm Business Proposal to the SFA. The Qualified Person is usually a licensed professional such as an architect. The proposal should include detailed farm layouts and building plans. Upon approval, the next step is to apply for a farm license within three months.
Requirements include being the tenant or lessee of the farmland, which also need approval for farming. The SFA website on starting a farm has detailed licensing information relevant to the type of agricultural business you wish to run. There is a thorough industry guide offered by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) which acts as a handy checklist. Various agencies, such as ESG’s SEEDS Capital and the Economic Development Board (EDB), also provide crucial support.
Under the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF), the Singapore Government offers subsidies and funds for agribusiness entrepreneurs. An Agri-Food Innovation Park is also in the works as an ecosystem to support and commercialize high-tech agriculture. Ongoing by the Ministry of Trade and Industry is an agricultural compliance regulatory sandbox. This will work to upgrade and streamline the regulatory framework towards a more robust business environment.
As can be seen, starting an agricultural business in Singapore is a commitment of resources and dedication. It requires planning and hard work to bring about a measure of success. To accelerate the growth and achievement of your agricultural business, contact 3E Accounting today. Our team of experts will work with you to create customizable solutions towards realizing your entrepreneurial dreams.