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Speeches

Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Official Launch of Singapore Food Agency on 1 April 2019, at Jem Office Building

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good morning. We are here today to witness a new beginning — the official launch of the Singapore Food Agency, or SFA, a new statutory board under the MEWR family.

2. Over the past year, many of our officers across agencies have worked tirelessly to integrate relevant functions across the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), Health Sciences Authority and National Environment Agency (NEA), while ensuring that essential services continue without disruption. I have sat through briefings to understand the new food portfolio, and am very impressed with the passion and commitment of our people. Welcome to the MEWR Family. I am looking forward to working with all of you to write the next chapter of the Singapore Food Story.

The Singapore Food Story

3. Just like water security, food security is an existential issue for Singapore. Both water and food security are integral to Singapore’s national security. Despite Singapore’s lack of natural resources and agricultural land, our officers have worked hard over the years to ensure that we have a secure supply of safe food. Singapore was ranked number 1 in the world in the Global Food Security Index last year.

4. But challenges lie ahead. The global agri-food landscape is changing rapidly. By 2050, global food demand will rise by 60 per cent with growth in the global population. Vital resources, such as water and energy will be increasingly scarce. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates widespread declines in crop yields of up to 25 per cent by 2050 due to climate change. As we import over 90 per cent of our food, Singapore’s food supply could be at risk.

5. We also need to manage the risks from the growing complexities in global food supply chains. While the AVA together with other agencies have worked well together over the years to address food security and safety issues, we must ensure that our regime continues to stay well ahead of the curve.

Ensuring food security and safety from farm to fork

6. The formation of SFA will consolidate NEA and AVA’s capabilities in licensing, compliance management and investigation, and HSA’s expertise in testing. This is the Government’s commitment to strengthen food security and food safety from farm to fork. SFA will seize opportunities by turning the challenges into strategic advantages, just like what we have done for water. There is immense potential to transform our agri-food industry, develop our local enterprises and provide good jobs for Singaporeans.

7. At the Committee of Supply debate this year, I announced our ambitious plan to produce 30% of our food by 2030. Today, we produce less than 10%. To achieve our “30-by-30” vision, we will require our agri-food industry to adopt innovative solutions to raise productivity, apply R&D, strengthen climate resilience, and overcome resource constraints.

8. All these efforts to ensure and secure a supply of food will be futile, if food is unsafe for consumption. With the consolidation of capabilities, SFA will be overseeing food businesses across the supply chain. This will include more than 60,000 food manufacturers, central kitchens, caterers, restaurants and others. It will not be realistic for SFA to inspect and regulate every single entity. We have to partner the industry to harness technology and data, so as to make our regulatory regime more effective and efficient. This could include digitalisation of food tracing using blockchain technologies. We must also work towards greater accountability of the food industry for hygiene standards at their premises.

Unlocking new synergies in the MEWR family

9. With 2019 being the Year Towards Zero Waste, it is timely to think of new ways to adopt a circular economy approach across the food-water-energy-waste nexus. I visited the Marine Aquaculture Centre, or MAC, on St John’s Island in February. I noticed similarities between the water treatment technologies adopted at MAC’s hatcheries to remove fish waste, and those adopted in PUB’s water reclamation plants. This is one example of an area where we can develop synergistic partnerships within the Ministry. Another example is the possible use of heat from our incineration plants to optimise water temperature for aquaculture purposes. Tropical marine fish grow better in warmer water temperatures, but it is expensive to heat up water. By applying the by-products from our incineration processes to fish breeding, we reap opportunities from harnessing circularity principles. We will continue to explore possibilities that can be unlocked through R&D, integrated upfront planning and design, and close collaboration with our industry partners.

Conclusion

10. To conclude, SFA will take on a pivotal role in ensuring and securing a supply of safe food for Singapore. SFA will be well-placed to work with stakeholders to transform the agri-food industry, seize opportunities in the future food landscape, and provide good jobs for Singaporeans.

11. I encourage everyone to harness the business and employment opportunities offered by the agri-food industry, and support our home-grown farmers by consuming local produce.

12. Together, we can do our part to write another glorious chapter of the Singapore Food Story.

Thank you

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