Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment Year-End Appreciation Event on 25 November 2020
1 Good afternoon to guests in the MSE hall and theatrette, as well as those joining us online through our Facebook live stream!
2 COVID-19 has brought the issue of food security and environmental sustainability into sharper focus. Many countries closed their borders to slow the spread of the virus, leading to the unprecedented disruption of global supply chains, including food and essential supplies. Our cleaning and sanitation employees were working tirelessly on the frontline as we disinfected countless places visited by infected persons.
3 COVID-19 has also led to a spike in plastic waste such as single-use plastic bags, boxes for food takeaways and PPE. We need the collective efforts of the 3P sectors – public, private and people – to tackle these problems.
Multi-pronged strategy for food security
4 Food security is fundamental to a nation’s security and the health of its people. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Programme, for its important role in preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
5 Singapore has put in place a multi-pronged strategy over the years to buffer against supply shocks to our food supplies. For example, the rice stockpile scheme has been put in place for several decades to ensure sufficiency of supply.
6 Much work has taken place since. We have diversified our food imports to over 170 countries and regions. SFA is working closely with the industry to ensure food supply resilience. Our egg importers are adhering to their business continuity plan as required under the import licensing conditions. As a result, we can now find eggs from places like Poland and Ukraine in our char kway teow and nasi lemak!
7 We announced our “30 by 30” goal in March 2019 and when COVID-19 arrived, we swiftly responded with decisive actions to accelerate local production. We tendered out nine carpark rooftops, totaling 22,000 square metres, for commercial farming. The tenders were oversubscribed by more than 12 times. Since 2017, we awarded five tranches of agriculture land and have launched the tender for another two parcels in September. We also awarded over $39 million through the “30x30 Express” grant call to accelerate food production.
8 While the Government has put in place various measures and grants, we need industries, and the community to work with us to ensure food security.
Catalysing greener growth with industries, businesses and researchers
9 Even as we combat COVID-19, we are implementing plans to recover stronger in the new normal. The agri-food industry will be one sector that catalyses a green recovery. “30 by 30” is not just for food security but also one that will create good jobs, including in areas like feed formulation and vaccine development, and in adjacent industries such as automation and engineering. We see the potential of exporting our produce and technologies. Let me elaborate the bases for my optimism.
10 First, we will master-plan 390 hectares of land in Lim Chu Kang so that land is used productively and effectively for a highly productive and resource-efficient agri-food sector. We will be launching two tenders in the coming weeks – a topographical study and an environmental study to better understand the ecosystems in that area. We will consult the industry and relevant stakeholders in our planning process to create a future-ready – ready for future technology, ready for future market, and ready for a low-carbon low waste future - agri-food industry in Lim Chu Kang. We look forward to receiving ideas from agri-food players and stakeholders in the envisioning process for the transformation of Lim Chu Kang.
11 Second, we are moving up the supply chain with an ambition to become an international hub for sustainable urban food solutions. We received many good applications for the RIE2020 (Research, Innovation & Enterprise) Singapore Food Story R&D Grant Call on sustainable urban food production. Agencies are in the final stages of assessing the proposals submitted and will announce the recipients of the grant call in the upcoming months.
12 To develop a vibrant aquaculture R&D ecosystem, we have established a new aquaculture nutrition facility at SFA’s Marine Aquaculture Centre on St John’s Island. The facility consists of an aquaculture feed mill and shared experimental systems that Institutes of Higher Learning, research institutions and the industry can use for their R&D projects. For example, researchers can experiment with optimisation of feed formulation and feed quality to enhance the nutritional content of our farmed fish. These R&D initiatives will strengthen our food production capabilities, and anchor Singapore as a leading aquaculture technology hub in the region. Not only will these urban farming technologies be beneficial for Singapore, there will be demand outside Singapore as the world seeks to address the twin challenges of climate change and growing demand to feed a growing population on food supply and security.
13 Third, our local farmers are building on the Singapore brand of quality and safety, and tapping the growth opportunities in export markets. For example, local egg farm N&N exports its eggs and egg products to countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Maldives. Barramundi Asia is exporting its Kuhlbarra brand of barramundi to the United States, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia.
14 Our reputation for quality will be further strengthened when we launch our Clean and Green Standard next year. The Standard will be a mark of recognition for urban vegetable farms that produce quality food in cleaner and more sustainable environments. I strongly encourage our business to adopt the Standard and go through the certification so that the brand of SG Local Produce carries greater value.
Working alongside 3P Partners
15 As we create a vibrant agri-food sector in Singapore, we are mindful of the important roles our partners and stakeholders play in strengthening food security. I would like to thank all our partners who have contributed to our Singapore Food Story campaign.
16 Partners such as the Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) which explored the topic of food security during their Virtual Summit; while Ricoh Asia Pacific partnered with the community and schools in distributing seeds and encouraging the public plant their own vegetables; youth groups like the Maju Collective which organised a hackathon on food security; and several others which help promote understanding of food security by organising talks; NParks’ Gardening with Edibles initiative, which distributed free seed packets of edible plants, jointly supported by DBS Bank and Tote Board through the Garden City Fund, was very well received.
17 Individuals can contribute to food security through supporting local produce. We have introduced several initiatives to promote our local produce. We have made it easier for consumers to identify the produce through the SG local produce logo. We have recently concluded the final session of the Citizens’ Workgroup on increasing demand for local produce which some of you have participated. I thank you for the hours you dedicated to developing creative and practical solutions. My Ministry and SFA are reviewing the recommendations, and we will respond to them by January 2021. I hope that with your efforts, Singaporeans will develop a healthy, or rather a hearty appetite for local produce!
Sustainability is a community effort
18 We have seen how the public, private, and people sectors have contributed collectively to enhance Singapore’s food security. Beyond food security, the 3P partnership must also tackle the broader challenge of climate change. Every one of us can do our part to care for the environment, and the environment needs every one of us to care for it.
19 I am encouraged by how residents in Tampines GreenLace used compost from food waste in their community gardening initiative. This ground-up initiative arose from a pilot project that MSE conducted on household food waste segregation in their estate. With the help of organisations like Zero Waste SG and Foodscape Collective, the residents set up a community garden and composting corner in the estate, where residents contributed their food waste for composting. The residents shared that they are growing edibles like passionfruit and tapioca, and they have harvested!
20 MSE supports such ground-up initiatives through the $50 million SG Eco Fund announced in March. Open to the 3P sectors, this Fund will support ground-up projects that advance environmental sustainability in Singapore. The Fund will cover projects in a broad range of areas, from farming and food production to climate change mitigation and resilience, resource efficiency and recycling, and conservation of biodiversity.
21 I am pleased to announce that the first grant call for the SG Eco Fund opens today! I encourage everyone– individuals, NGOs, and businesses with ideas for sustainability to apply for the fund and join us in advancing environmental sustainability in Singapore.
22 Let me conclude. We are now approaching the end of a very challenging year. We do not know when COVID-19 pandemic will end. But we have adjusted quickly, acted decisively and are building a firm foundation for our recovery.
23 There is still a long journey ahead, but I am confident that if all of us work together, we will emerge stronger and greener, and build a more sustainable Singapore. Thank you.