Intervention by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at APEC Virtual Ministerial Policy Dialogue on Food Security, on 27 Oct 2020
1 Allow me to begin by thanking Malaysia as the APEC Chair for hosting the APEC Virtual Ministerial Policy Dialogue on Food Security. This dialogue is particularly salient, given the challenges that the COVID-19 global pandemic has presented us. Besides being a health crisis, COVID-19 has also hurt economies, and caused major disruption to both food production and distribution. Supply chains have also been impacted, resulting in bottlenecks and threatening food security.
COVID-19’s impact and the need to ensure functioning supply chains
2 In Singapore, we import over 90% of our food from more than 170 countries and regions. The continued flow of food and food-related products remains key to Singapore’s food security. In line with APEC’s goal for free and open trade and investment, underpinned by the rules-based multilateral trading system which Singapore supports, it is important for all APEC Member Economies to pursue initiatives to maintain the free movement of goods across borders. Singapore is deeply appreciative of APEC Member Economies’ efforts to maintain the movement and free trade of goods across borders, including food and agricultural inputs, and ensuring that key infrastructure needed for the movement of goods, such as ports and airports, remain fully operational during COVID-19, despite movement restriction measures in place.
3 Globally, we are not just dealing with a health pandemic but an economic crisis. Maintaining trade connectivity is critical to enable countries to respond efficiently and effectively to manage the pandemic, and also rebuild our economies. It is through renewed commitment to keep markets and supply chains open that economies can also minimise disruption and facilitate the global recovery from this crisis.
4 In addition, it is also important for APEC Member Economies to accelerate the processing of food shipments and expedite customs clearance of food products. In Singapore, we have further streamlined our food accreditation process based on science and risk assessments, and have approved more source countries to expand the number of economies we can import food from. It is also vital for Member Economies to ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain and refrain from imposing or intensifying export and other trade restrictions that are not based on evidence and scientific risk assessments.
5 Besides ensuring that supply chains continue to function, it is also important to address the challenge of managing restrictions on the movement and availability of workers in the agri-food sector and to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 among them. In Singapore, we have required businesses to implement safe management measures and where relevant, business continuity plans, so that any COVID-19 incident can be identified quickly, contained and managed. This has strengthened our capacity to ensure that key food distribution sites or establishments continue to function even if there are cases of COVID-19.
Leveraging technology and R&D
6 As COVID-19 increases the vulnerability of global supply chains, Singapore is doing more to further enhance our food security by implementing plans to produce more food locally and sustainably. We have a goal to produce 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030, from less than 10% today. We call this our “30 by 30” goal. The increase in food production will also enhance regional food security as more food will be produced within the region and some of the urban food solutions developed locally may be applicable overseas.
7 To achieve our ”30 by 30” goal, we have put in place plans to build an innovative agri-food sector that leverages technology and R&D to increase productivity and meet the challenges of an increasingly resource-constrained world. We have a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to incentivise our farms to adopt automation and productivity-enhancing technologies, such as hydroponics and recirculating aquaculture systems, for our urban farms to achieve big leaps in food production within our scarce land area.
8 To increase food production in a sustainable manner, we encourage our farms to embrace sustainability and to employ circular economy principles. For example, Sustenir, a high-tech indoor vegetable farm in Singapore, uses technology to control farming variables like lighting and temperature. By doing so, production is consistently reliable and of high-quality. Another example is local egg farm N&N Agriculture which carries out bio-digestion of their poultry waste to produce energy. The energy generated is then used to dry the by-products from the food manufacturing industry, such as okara, which is from soy, to produce chicken feed. The result is a win-win – the farm requires low energy input and generates less waste that needs to be incinerated. Farms are recognising the economic opportunities and environmental benefits of designing circularity into their processes. These interventions allow companies to gain a competitive advantage in the face of increasing resource constraints.
9 Last year, Singapore also committed $144 million to research in the areas of sustainable urban food production, future foods such as alternative proteins, and food safety. We are looking forward to translating the outcomes of these R&D projects to feasible and scalable initiatives that our local industry, and eventually other countries, can adopt.
10 As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, attention and cooperation among all APEC Member Economies will be needed to arrive at a sustainable new normal. Singapore will continue working with like-minded partners to reiterate our strong commitment to keep trade lines open. The adoption of the Declaration on Facilitating the Movement of Essential Goods by APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in July this year is a clear demonstration of APEC’s commitment to facilitate the flow of essential goods, including food products. The APEC Ministerial Statement on Food Security further reaffirms Member Economies’ commitment on this. Working together, I am confident that we will all bounce back stronger from this global challenge.
11 Thank you.