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Parliament Q&A

Written reply by Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Food Security on 2 September 2019

TOPICS: Food

Question by Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources what steps are being taken towards securing and investing in Singapore’s long-term food security even as the world faces climate change and urbanisation.

Answer by Minister:

1      Food security is a national security issue that is closely linked to human life and health. Given that we import over 90% of our food, Singapore is vulnerable to volatilities in the global food market and disruptions in our food supplies. This vulnerability will become more acute in time, as global crop yields are estimated to decline by up to 25 percent by 2050 due to climate change impacts. With such challenges in mind, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) was formed in April 2019 with the mission to strengthen and ensure Singapore’s food security. SFA does so by pursuing three broad strategies, which we call our three “food baskets” – “Diversify Import Sources”; “Grow Local” and “Grow Overseas”.

2       For our first food basket, SFA works with stakeholders such as food importers to diversify our food import sources. This ensures that we are not overly reliant on a particular country, and reduces the impact of a disruption in food supply from any one source country. To support this, SFA is accrediting more farms across different countries and geographical regions for food safety to enable them to export to Singapore, and brings importers on food sourcing trips to facilitate import tie-ups. SFA has also introduced requirements for importers of key food items, such as eggs, to adopt plans to mitigate the impact of any supply disruptions.

3      Our second food basket, “Grow Local”, will help Singapore reduce our reliance on imports and buffer the impact of overseas supply disruptions. At the Committee of Supply debate earlier this year, I announced that my Ministry has set out to achieve “30 by 30”, to develop the capability and capacity to locally produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs by 2030. This is a significant jump from our current local production of less than 10%. As SFA works with our agri-food industry to adopt new solutions to raise productivity, these solutions need to also adopt circular economy approaches, to overcome our resource constraints, such as for water and energy. This way, Singapore also becomes more climate resilient.

4      SFA is committed to partnering our food producers in this journey. New farm plots have been tendered out to those with the best concepts instead of the highest bid prices. Through the Agriculture Productivity Fund (APF), SFA supports farmers in their efforts to modernise and harness innovative, sustainable technologies and advanced farming systems. For example, APF supported Singapore Aquaculture Technologies, an existing coastal fish farm, to adopt a closed-containment aquaculture system. In a closed-containment system, the water to culture the fish is separated from the sea water, enabling fish production to be resilient to fluctuations in external environmental conditions.

5      Furthermore, as announced in March this year, funding of up to $144 million will be allocated from within the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) Plan to the Singapore Food Story Research & Development Programme. The programme was jointly developed by SFA and A*STAR to grow a vibrant and forward-looking agri-tech and food ecosystem, with one of the focus areas being sustainable urban food production. Under this, SFA partners the research community to find solutions for the gaps that current technologies cannot solve. Potential research areas include the use of smart sensors in climate-resilient farming systems in tropical aquaculture and urban agriculture.

6      This exciting vision will require us to continue to innovate. One area that is gaining interest is urban farming in alternative spaces such as vacant multi-storey carparks. This involves innovative use of spaces in the urban environment to farm, brings local produce closer to the community, reduces carbon footprint and raises awareness on the importance of food security by involving the community directly in food production.

7      For our third food basket, SFA works with ESG to support our companies to expand and grow overseas. These overseas-based Singapore companies will be able to overcome land and manpower constraints, and access new and bigger overseas markets. This will allow them to bring down costs through economies of scale, and reduce the price of exports to Singapore.

8      SFA will continue to work with agencies, industry and the community to strengthen Singapore’s food security.

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