Strengthening Singapore’s Food Security

Challenge looks at how the Singapore Food Agency works with various partners in Singapore and overseas, as well as with local communities, to ensure our food security.

Most of our food is imported from all over the world.

Singapore, being land scarce, relies heavily on imports for our food. Our meat comes from as far as Brazil, our rice from Thailand and India, and our egg supply is boosted by imports from various countries including Ukraine, Poland and Spain – to name just a few key food products.

As the world’s population grows, the global demand for food is projected to be 60% higher by 2050, compared to 2016.

And in the face of challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, and disruptions to the global food system, as seen recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of food security has been brought into sharper focus.

Overseeing Singapore’s food security is the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), which works closely with many other public agencies, industry partners and foreign authorities to ensure that Singapore has a secure supply of safe food.

Singapore Food Agency has adopted three strategies to ensure Singapore’s food security.

Singapore’s Three Food Baskets

To ensure Singapore’s food security, the SFA is pursuing three broad strategies also known as our food baskets:

1. Diversifying Food Import Sources

Importing food from many different countries reduces the risk of over-reliance on a single supply source. This allows importers to ramp up supply from other sources if the supply from any source country is disrupted.

  • Today, we have diversified our food sources to over 170 countries and regions.
  • For importers of key food items, the SFA has also introduced a requirement to adopt business continuity plans, which may include import source diversification to mitigate the impact of food supply disruptions.

2. Growing Local

Local food production mitigates our reliance on imports and provides a critical buffer during supply disruptions.

  • The “30 by 30” Target
    We are working to build up the capability and capacity of our agri-food industry to produce 30% of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030. This target is featured in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 launched in February 2021, and is one of the concrete steps we are taking to enhance our resilience against climate change.

3. Growing Overseas

Singapore is also supporting local food production companies to set up overseas and export their produce back to Singapore, contributing to our food security. By venturing overseas, companies can overcome land and manpower constraints, and access new and bigger markets.

This strategy helps Singapore build strategic relations with key partners and helps local companies export their urban food solutions.

Developments Singaporeans Can Look Forward To

For many years, Singapore has been preparing for the possibility of serious food disruptions, whether due to global pandemics, climate change, geopolitical developments or other factors.

This has served us well during the COVID-19 period, ensuring that no disruption from any single source affected us too severely.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of air routes led to an increase in freight costs for certain commodities, such as chilled pork from Australia. This was quickly managed as importers were able to switch to alternate sources where necessary. The Australian authorities also subsequently committed to keep supply lines open through weekly flights, which helped to ease the situation.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of having a buffer in the event of global supply disruptions. Together with the industry, the SFA is working to build up Singapore’s local capabilities, ramp up local food production, and boost this buffer.

To accelerate our efforts, close to S$40 million of funding was set aside under a “30 x 30” Express grant established in 2020 to support the agri-food industry to “grow more and grow faster”.

A $60 million Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund was also launched in 2021 to support the transformation of the agri-food sector into one that is highly productive, climate resilient and resource efficient.

Championing R&D

Leveraging research and development (R&D) is key to our “30 by 30” target, and the SFA has been facilitating more investments in the agri-food space to encourage R&D and providing strong support to the industry.

Up to $144 million has been allocated for food-related R&D programmes under a five-year Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan. The SFA has awarded over $23 million in funding to 12 projects under a grant call for R&D in sustainable urban food production.

The SFA has also established a new aquaculture nutrition facility to boost research on fish nutrition and feed development.

Due to a lack of space, the SFA has taken measures to optimise agricultural space.

Optimising Our Agricultural Space

As a small and densely populated country with only about 1% of land set aside for agriculture, there is a need to optimise our agricultural space.

  • The SFA is master planning 390ha of land in Lim Chu Kang into a high-tech agri-food zone that can raise local food production in a sustainable and resource-efficient manner.

  • The SFA is also studying the expansion of sustainable fish farming in the deeper Southern Waters to boost local fish production. There are also plans to unlock the potential of sea-based fish farming through more productive, sustainable and climate-resilient management methods and practices.

  • Located within Sungei Kadut Eco-District, the Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP) will be established as a pilot cluster to spur innovation in the agri-food tech ecosystem – by bringing together high-tech urban farming in both agriculture and aquaculture and associated R&D activities.

Farming in Alternative Spaces

To overcome our land constraints, agencies are exploring the use of alternative spaces for commercial farming, including vacant land and state properties.

Rooftop Farming:

In 2019, the SFA launched a pilot project with the Housing & Development Board (HDB) to assess the feasibility of commercial urban farming in our heartlands, which saw Citiponics operating a vegetable farm on a multi-storey carpark rooftop in Ang Mo Kio.

Since then, the SFA and HDB have awarded successful tenderers of nine HDB carpark rooftop spaces for urban farming and launched a tender for another seven HDB carpark rooftop sites. Besides contributing to our food security, such rooftop farms help raise awareness and appreciation for local produce among the community.

Education and Skills

To build up a pipeline of local talent who can take up jobs in the growing agri-food industry, the SFA is working with various Institutes of Higher Learning and local farms on programmes such as diploma courses and structured internship programmes to equip students and adult job seekers with the relevant skillsets.

Nurturing an Interest in Edible Gardening

In support of the “30 by 30” target, the National Parks Board (NPark)’s Gardening with Edibles initiative has provided households with the seeds of edible plants since June 2020.

To date, more than 460,000 seed packets have been distributed, along with numerous free online resources and digital engagement conducted, to help households take a greater interest in and understand what it takes to grow their own food.

NParks is also expanding its Allotment Gardening Scheme and the Community In Bloom programme to provide more spaces for Singaporeans to enjoy gardening and grow edible plants near their homes.

From ensuring supply chain connectivity for our food supply to exploring alternative spaces for urban farming and building a pipeline of local talent, the SFA collaborates with many other agencies and stakeholders to strengthen our food security.
From ensuring supply chain connectivity for our food supply to exploring alternative spaces for urban farming and building a pipeline of local talent, the SFA collaborates with many other agencies and stakeholders to strengthen our food security.

How Singaporeans Can Show Support

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local production for Singapore’s food security. Strengthening our food security is a whole-of-nation effort and everyone has a part to play.

Consumers can play their part by choosing and buying local produce. Apart from being fresher and lasting longer, there is less spoilage and food waste as the produce does not need to travel for long periods of time to get to consumers.

When you buy local produce, it supports the business of our local farmers and spurs them to become more productive to meet the increased demand. This in turn, helps enhance our nation’s food security.

In 2020, the SFA launched the “SG Fresh Produce” logo to allow consumers to easily identify local produce. Consumers can also easily purchase local produce from the e-SG Farmers’ Market page.
In 2020, the SFA launched the “SG Fresh Produce” logo to allow consumers to easily identify local produce. Consumers can also easily purchase local produce from the e-SG Farmers’ Market page.

Promoting Local Produce

In 2020, the SFA and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) organised a Citizens’ Workgroup to seek the public’s views and ideas to raise demand for local produce.

In the span of over four months and six virtual sessions, 50 participants from diverse backgrounds worked together to come up with six proposals to enhance our food security. The SFA and MSE are looking to implement two pilot projects in the second half of this year.

One will target first-time mothers to show them the benefits of eating local produce, while the other project will make identifying local produce in wet markets easier with eye-catching visuals to attract patrons to buy them.

Read the Citizens’ Workgroup’s report to learn more about these proposals.

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  • POSTED ON
    Jul 29, 2021
  • TEXT BY
    Tuber
  • ILLUSTRATION BY
    Mushroomhead
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