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Our Past - The Primary Production Department

The Primary Production Department (PPD) was formed in 1959 through the merger of five Divisions namely, the Agriculture Division, Veterinary division, Co-operative Division, Fisheries Division and the Rural Division, to provide a coordinated approach to developing and regulating the local farming and fishing industry.

Over the decades from the 1960s to 2000s, PPD's role underwent major transformation as Singapore's farming activities diminished and it took on additional new functions of food safety testing and facilitation of agri-trade.

For a quick tour into our past click here:


During the 60s, many Singaporeans were involved in agricultural activities. There were some 20,000 farms then occupying more than 14,000 hectares of land. Most farmers and fishermen were poorly educated and they used traditional farming methods.
  • PPD helped to improve the livelihood of the farmers by providing extension services and various schemes to assist the farming industry.
  • They were educated on matters relating to agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries.
  • Research and Development in areas such as production methods, breeding techniques, nutrition and disease control, played a major role in improving agriculture and animal husbandry.
  • Farm licensing was introduced in 1968 to provide essential data on the structure of agriculture in Singapore. The information allowed the government to formulate policies and plans to further develop intensive farming to ensure optimal use of limited land resources.
  • Singapore's first Agricultural Show was held in 1965 with the aim of acquainting the urban population with activities of the farmers and fishermen.


In the 1970s, farmers were re-settled from the water catchment sites, which were affected by public projects. Larger commercial farms using more intensive methods of production replaced the subsistence type farms. An intensive pig farming estate was also developed in Punggol to house relocated pig farms. Such intensive production enabled Singapore to maintain self-sufficiency in the production of poultry (80%), eggs (100%) and pork (104%).
  • Comprehensive programmes for disease diagnosis; monitoring and control were initiated to cope with the development of larger farms and more intensive production of animals and plants. Laboratory techniques were constantly upgraded.
  • PPD's research and development work geared towards intensive production of selected primary produce to optimise land and manpower resources. Research findings were imparted to farmers.
  • The Jurong Fishing Port was upgraded to cater for increased port and market activities.
  • The abattoir facilities were upgraded and a new meat technology laboratory was set up to ensure that meat and meat products were wholesome and safe for consumption.


The 1980s saw a drastic decline in agricultural land. Many farmers were resettled to provide land for housing and industry. To maintain a degree of self-sufficiency and maximise land productivity, PPD began to develop farmlands into Agrotechnology Parks. This programme saw the introduction of automation and mechanisation to farming systems and the development of high-tech modern farms.
  • New technologies were constantly developed to help the local agri-industry stay competitive and highly productive. PPD undertook numerous collaborative research and development projects with local and overseas institutions.
  • Singapore became a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1986.
  • An integrated food safety programme was established to ensure the safety of an ever-increasing volume and variety of imported primary food.


PPD's diversification efforts and integrated food safety programme resulted in ample supplies of safe primary foods to Singapore. Food prices remained stable and our food safety standards are comparable to that in advanced countries. Singapore also remained free from major outbreaks of food-borne diseases caused by imported primary produce.
  • By maintaining strict quarantine measures, sound surveillance systems and up to date disease diagnostic laboratories, PPD has successfully kept out exotic animal and plant diseases.
  • The development of the Agrotechnology Parks (totaling some 1500 ha) was completed in 1995. Future advances in agriculture will most likely come from agri-biotechnology. Local research institutes such as the Institute of Molecular Agrobiology carried out R&D in agricultural biotechnology. An Agri-Bio Park was developed to house companies undertaking R&D and production of agribiotechnology products such as animal vaccines, biologics, diagnostic kits for animal and plant diseases, disease and pest resistant plants and bio-pesticides.
  • PPD was responsible for the facilitation of trade in agricultural products and agricultural produce, which includes animals and plants and their products, as well as endangered species. Permits, licenses and certificates were issued for the import, export and transhipment of these products. PPD's export health certificates are recognised worldwide.

2000 and beyond - The birth of AVA

Our future challenges

Emerging diseases and food-borne hazards
Prevention, detecting and controlling emerging diseases and food-borne hazards will become increasingly challenging. With the use of new chemicals and drugs in food production, advancements in biotechnology, and increasing incidences of food-poisoning outbreaks and animal diseases that can be passed to humans (e.g. Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu, and Nipah virus disease), we need to remain constantly vigilant to pre-empt such threats.

Resilient supply of safe food
Much of our supply of fresh food is derived from a few major sources. Any disruption in supply from such sources can have severe impact on our food supply. Efforts to raise levels of self-sufficiency will be limited by the scarcity of agricultural land. It is thus critical to continually identify new sources of safe and quality food to prevent over-dependence on a few sources. This may involve facilitating overseas investments in food production, the transfer of farming technology and the extension of laboratory services to the region.

R&D in agri-biotechnology
Agri-biotechnology has the greatest potential to improve agriculture in this millennium. Ongoing collaborative research with industry, tertiary institutions and research institutes can be further strengthened to develop new products such as animal vaccines, genetically modified and superior plants and fish for the international market.

Gearing up for the future
Overcoming the increasingly difficult task of maintaining our high standards of food safety and animal and plant health requires us to be agile in responding to emerging threats quickly and effectively. We also need to continually upgrade our supporting infrastructure as well as the expertise of our professionals.

In response to these needs, the Primary Production Department was restructured into a statutory board, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority or AVA, on 1 April 2000. As a statutory board, AVA is equipped with greater autonomy and flexibility to enable it to better respond to the challenges faced by the food and agriculture industry in this millennium.

On 1 July 2002, AVA welcomed a new member into its family - the Food Control Division (formerly part of the Ministry of the Environment). With this new addition, AVA now regulates the safety of both fresh produce and processed foods, from production right up to just before retail

Our team of highly trained professionals will strive to build on past achievements and bring AVA to greater heights. Our new Marine Aquaculture Centre at St John's Island is set to boost marine aquaculture development in the region. The establishment of two new laboratories, the Veterinary Public Health Laboratory and the Animal and Plant Health Laboratory, that are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and capabilities, will strengthen our ability to deal with emerging threats. At the same time, they will be well- positioned to serve as regional reference centres for food safety, and for animal and plant health.


Last updated on 17 January 2014
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