With global warming leading to unpredictable climate changes, new technologies encouraging ever-increasing populations and affordability forever becoming a huge factor in accessibility to food resources, food security is now essential for all countries across the world. Asian countries are no different, but in many ways have a lot further to go than some of their wealthy western neighbours. Singapore, a country with little past recognition as a food and agricultural producer has taken up the mantle.
What are the aims of the Singapore government?
In an effort to streamline food security, Singapore aims to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has stated that it will reach the 30% goal (the project has been nicknamed “30 by 30”) by producing more vegetables, poultry and fish. The Singapore Health Promotion Board has said If this is to have any chance at all, the country needs 50% fruit and vegetables; 25% proteins and 25% staples. To shift the Singapore food industry away from its heavy reliance on imports will of course not happen overnight and some even feel that 2030 is asking for far too much. At this stage the government’s goal is to produce 20% of the fruit and vegetables and 10% of the proteins from local sources.
What factors need to be taken into consideration?
“30 by 30” could be seen as quite an optimistic leap when statistics show that only very recently its output was less than 10%. Singapore is highly dependent on exports – 90% of its food supply is provided by imports and, at the time of writing, only 1% of the land is used for agricultural food production.
This scenario leaves the country with little control over factors which bear heavy on the accessibility of food for the whole population: escalating prices charged by the exporter, an inability to charge acceptable levies on imports, an almost non-existent food industry finds difficulty in offering real alternatives (this could quite clearly be highly fruitful as a future platform for careers for young people especially); the country is held to ransom by bad harvests and climate change.
The plan, in essence, will mean a complete overhaul of the current production line. New solutions in the food chain will need to be adopted. Current productivity tasks will need to be strengthened in order to stand up to climate changes. Singapore also needs to ascertain whether there will be any resource constraints on its new expanded output.
Four foundation stones
The Environment and Water Resources Ministry (MEWR) have highlighted four ways in which the target can be achieved:
- By using technology to enhance crop growth while using less resources. This will call for a shift to more modern technologies and strategies and high-tech controlled environments in local production.
- Unlocking more space for farming. Another government body, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has been researching further into this and has submitted a report which suggests that the answer is to focus on underutilised areas like vacant state buildings, rooftops and even the sea. This includes the seabed as well as enhancing any possibilities there may be in sea fishing. The SFA has announced it will work with agencies to open up more sites for deep sea farming.
- Developing local farmers. It is ok to buy in the new technology but if the everyday farmer does not know how to use the new techniques the plan can only fail. To deal with this factor the government will need to open learning platforms in such areas as the sciences, engineering, as well as energy and waste management. Consequently, the SFA will partner with universities to create urban farming specialists of the future. It would also create a career progression within the home agriculture and food industry. Too often, where agricultural work is perceived as a dead-end job with little future, many are migrating to the cities looking for work in service industries.
- Encouraging consumers to buy local. As well as the Singapore food industry meeting the needs of the consumer, the buyer needs to be aware of the new initiatives and why they need to happen. This will encourage consumers to buy local rather than traditional exports. Three powerful reasons for consumers to buy local foodstuffs are (1) Foodstuffs are more likely to be fresh (2) buying local will assist enterprise and lead to openings in employment (3) the economy on the whole is likely to thrive. Not only will this call for media promotions but also public education.
The long term goal must surely lead to greater food accessibility to all, more diverse and higher quality foodstuffs, a reduction in costs and a thriving home economy. Singapore is rising to the challenge.
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