Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Opening Session of the Citizens’ Workgroup on Increasing Demand for Local Produce on 18 July 2020
1 Good morning. I would like to thank everyone for spending your Saturday morning with us, and for committing to join us for the next five sessions. We are heartened by your support, and thankful for your understanding of the changes we have had to make to the sessions, such as moving from physical meetings to online meetings, and having to commit to more sessions due to the current COVID-19 situation.
‘30 by 30’ goal and our Singapore Food Story
2 Ensuring food security is an existential challenge for Singapore. We currently import more than 90 per cent of our food and this leaves us vulnerable to disruptions in the global food system due to climate change, disease outbreaks and volatilities of the global food market. This was underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many countries undertook lockdown measures, and there was adverse impact on global trade and supply chains.
3 Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the Government has been planning and taking action to safeguard Singapore’s food supply. To mitigate the risks of disruption to our food imports, Singapore has been diversifying our sources of food imports and building stockpiles of essential food items. Another key strategy that we must seriously pursue is to boost local food production. By 2030, we aim to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs with food produced in Singapore — in short, our “30 by 30” goal. Nonetheless, this is an ambitious goal given our inherent constraints. Singapore is a small city state with only around 700 square kilometres of land, and currently less than 1 per cent of it is designated for agricultural use. The challenge is compounded by the need to produce food in a resource-efficient and sustainable manner.
4 Earlier this year, my ministry launched “2020: Singapore Food Story”, a year-long campaign to raise awareness of issues surrounding Singapore’s food security. As events would have it, and as highlighted earlier, the COVID-19 outbreak escalated quickly, disrupting global supply chains and affecting trade and commerce worldwide. This pandemic has certainly reinforced the need for us to boost our local food production capacities to ensure that we have a resilient and secure supply of food.
Accelerating local food production
5 The Singapore Food Agency, or SFA, has embarked on various strategies to increase local food production. Recently, a tender for the rental of rooftop spaces on nine HDB multi-storey carparks was launched, as part of efforts to open up more spaces for commercial urban farming. We received 88 proposals for the nine rooftop spaces and the tender will be awarded in the coming months. More multi-storey carpark rooftop sites will also be made available later this year.
6 SFA also provides funding support for the local agri-food industry to harness technology to grow more. The Agriculture Productivity Fund, or APF, and the $144 million of funding under the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme are two examples.
7 In April this year, SFA established a $30 million “30 x 30 Express” grant to accelerate local production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish over the next six to 24 months. Once the companies have been awarded the grant, SFA will coordinate with agencies to facilitate the necessary regulatory clearances so that farms can start producing as soon as possible.
Government efforts to increase demand for local produce
8 The increase in local production of food has to be complemented by a growth in demand, for a commercially sustainable and vibrant agri-food ecosystem. Choosing to buy local produce will help to spur our farms to embrace technology and become more productive to meet the increased demand. Otherwise, there may be no incentive for our farmers to increase their supply.
9 In a food perception survey commissioned by MEWR and SFA in January 2020, 94 per cent of respondents indicated that they would be willing to purchase more local produce. However, only 65 per cent could easily identify food that was grown in Singapore when grocery shopping. To create top-of-mind awareness for local produce, SFA has launched a new ‘SG Fresh Produce’ logo online, and the logo can be found on local produce in retail shops and supermarkets from August onwards. In addition, we have been working with retailers, such as supermarkets, to carry more produce grown from local farms.
10 We are also helping to bring farmers and their fresh produce closer to consumers. SFA has worked with the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation, or SAFEF, to roll out the SG Farmers’ Market in various housing estates and community clubs. This is to make it more convenient for residents living nearby to purchase home-grown leafy vegetables, eggs and fish.
11 To date, a total of eight SG Farmers’ Markets have been organised in various locations across Singapore, including Singapore Turf Club, Bishan Community Club and Our Tampines Hub. In January this year, the SG Farmers’ Market expanded online with the launch of e-SG Farmers’ Market page on Lazada RedMart. Currently, we have 20 farmers on board and consumers can choose from a range of 100 local produce items, and have them delivered to their doorsteps. Through engaging the community, and encouraging citizens to purchase local produce, we hope to help Singaporeans understand the process behind bringing food from farm to fork, appreciate the hard work put in by our local farmers, and inculcate a sense of pride in Singapore produce.
Co-creating and co-delivering solutions
12 While the Government will continue to ensure a resilient food supply and encourage greater support for local produce, it will take a whole of nation effort to reach our “30 by 30” goal. This is why we have invited citizens and residents to form this Citizens’ Workgroup, as part of the SG Together movement.
13 I am heartened by the response we received. Close to 400 members of the public responded to our call, and a diverse group of around 50 members from different ages, ethnicities, professions, and level of support for local produce, have now come together for this endeavour. Today we have with us, in the Workgroup, students, retirees as well as professionals who run food businesses. We also have people who grow their own food at home and some who help out at local farms and NGOs in their free time. We hope to tap on your unique strengths, experiences and ideas, and work with you to co-create and co-deliver solutions to improve demand for local produce, that are adapted to Singapore’s context.
14 Over the next three months, my colleagues will provide you with the necessary support and resources as you formulate your proposals. Subject matter experts will also be brought in to guide you along this journey. We are looking forward to the ideas that will arise from this workgroup, which will be presented at the last session on 24 October.
15 Once again, I thank you for your commitment to the Workgroup and look forward to partnering you to write a new chapter of the Singapore Food Story.