Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Illegal Import of Food
Mr Pritam Singh: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether the supply of vegetables into Singapore is sufficiently diversified to mitigate against the rise in the price of vegetables from Malaysia; (b) whether the Singapore Food Agency has recorded a spike in the import of illegal vegetables in the last six to 12 months; and (c) whether existing enforcement measures are sufficient to deter the illegal import of vegetables.
1 Import source diversification is a key strategy to reduce the risk of food supply disruption and price fluctuations. Singapore’s supply of vegetables is diversified across 58 countries and regions (compared to 53 countries and regions in 2016). Local production contributed to about 13% of leafy vegetables consumption in 2020.
2 The supply of leafy vegetables is susceptible to inclement weather and pest infestation from time to time which may affect their prices in the short term. However, our suppliers are generally able to find alternative sources quickly. The retail prices of vegetables saw some fluctuations in May 2021, arising from inclement weather and temporary COVID-related supply disruptions. The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will continue to closely monitor the supply situation, and work with the industry to diversify vegetable imports and enhance local production.
3 SFA has not observed a spike in the import of illegal vegetables in the last six to 12 months. For the first half of 2021, SFA detected 14 cases of illegal vegetable imports, compared to 41 and 21 cases in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
4 SFA allows only licensed importers to import vegetables, and every consignment must be accompanied with a valid import permit. SFA conducts regular inspections to ensure compliance with food safety standards and requirements. Samples are taken to SFA’s National Centre for Food Science to check that they meet regulatory requirements. Imported vegetables that fail SFA’s inspections and tests, or that are illegally imported, are not allowed for sale.
5 To deter illegal importing activities, SFA has taken a range of enforcement actions, including composition fine, licence suspension and prosecution in court. Offenders may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three years, or both. SFA will continue to monitor the trends and adjust its regulatory regime if needed.