Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at Meat Traders Association’s 20th Anniversary Dinner on 11 June 2022
Mr Alvin Kwek, President of the Meat Traders Association Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Good evening. It is my pleasure to be here today for the Meat Traders Association's (MTA) 20th Anniversary celebration. I thank MTA for appointing me as your Honorary Advisor, and for inviting me to this special occasion.
Enhancing our food security
As a country that imports more than 90 per cent of our food, we face multiple challenges that can impact our food supply, including climate change, pandemics, and geopolitical events. We have experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food supply — from the temporary closure of Jurong Fishery Port, to the closure of borders and its impact on the movements of goods and people into Singapore.
More recently, we have seen many countries imposing food export bans on the basis of several factors — the war in Ukraine, shortage of animal feeds, poorer crop yields due to droughts and floods, and inflationary pressures. There are Malaysia's chicken export ban, Indonesia's palm oil export ban, and India's wheat and sugar export bans. It is thus crucial that we do not put all our eggs in one basket. This is why Singapore takes a multi-pronged approach to ensuring our food security. Our strategies include import source diversification, growing overseas, and growing local.
Source diversification has been particularly critical. This is closely intertwined with food safety because of the need to ensure that we only import from sources that meet our food safety requirements. Our risk-based accreditation framework ensures that high-risk products such as meat and meat products are imported from sources that meet our food safety and animal health standards and requirements. Food importers today can leverage Singapore's connectivity and the global free trade environment to import from more than 170 countries and regions worldwide.
Ground-up efforts to diversify
- While the Government continues to facilitate the opening of new sources for import, I encourage the industry and companies to build resilience into their supply networks by implementing business continuity plans such as diversifying and maintaining warm links with multiple sources. This would in turn protect their businesses especially during supply disruptions. A good example is the egg importers who have diversified their supply sources to now import eggs from Thailand, Poland and Australia. This has not only reduced our reliance on Malaysia but made our importers more resilient. Doing so requires initiative on the part of the industry. Our meat industry has built up strong capability over the years. MTA can play a critical role by helping the industry players understand the importance of business continuity plans and supporting them in implementing robust and resilient pipelines of supply.
MTA's role in recent disruptions
The past three weeks have been a hectic time for many of us. With Malaysia's export ban on chickens, the Government has been working closely with industry partners and trade associations such as MTA and the Poultry Merchants Association (PMA) to swiftly ramp up our alternative supplies of chicken. MTA and PMA members have been actively exploring alternative sources such as Thailand, Australia, and Argentina. I thank you for this work. Such efforts will help enhance our food supply resilience, not just during this difficult period but also beyond. We cannot rule out such export bans happening again in future. MTA's efforts, supported by government agencies such as the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and Enterprise Singapore, are important contributions towards enhancing our food security.
MTA has also worked with SFA and the National Environment Agency (NEA) to assist hawker and wet market stallholders to switch to frozen or thawed frozen chicken. Such actions demonstrate our agility and nimbleness in responding to disruptions.
I am heartened to see MTA's leadership in helping our local businesses to weather such storms and to emerge stronger and more resilient. The Government is aware of the impact of the export ban on businesses. We will monitor the situation closely, paying full attention to the supply situation and provide further support if needed. We urge all businesses to adapt quickly and support one another in finding new sources, new channels and new business models. But in the event of prolonged and extensive disruption to supplies, as we have experienced when COVID-19 disrupted Jurong Fishery Port's operations, when Safe Management Measures closed and reduced capacities at our wet markets and hawker centres, NEA and SFA will extend assistance to stall holders and industry tenants where needed.
Partnerships amidst challenges
Since MTA's inception in 2001, MTA and its members have played significant roles in enhancing our food security and sustaining a well-diversified and steady supply of meat in Singapore. In 2020, Singapore imported about 420,000 tonnes of meat valued at close to $1.65 billion. This includes chilled and frozen meat from 36 countries. It is commendable that MTA has extended its cooperation with international agencies such as Meat & Livestock Australia, US Meat & Export Federation, and the Chongqing Meat Association. MTA has also maintained close partnerships with agencies from France, Poland, and USA. It has also helped its members weather many storms, from diseases such as the African Swine Flu, the COVID-19 pandemic and export bans.
Such efforts are possible because of MTA's push over the years to enhance our local meat industry's capabilities. I understand that you have done so by collaborating with partners such as the NTUC U SME to improve labour practices in the sector, and the Singapore Business Federation to accelerate digitalisation across the industry.
Let me conclude. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Singapore consumers for their understanding and for also adapting well in accepting various alternative forms of chicken and protein. I am confident that with our people, industry and Government working closely together, Singapore is ready to overcome and withstand any disruptions to our food supply. It falls upon us to build a diversified and resilient food sector for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.
A legacy of 20 years is something that MTA should be proud of, and it is my pleasure to be a part of this monumental chapter of your history today. I would like to leave these few words with you "居安思危"。While we are living in peace and safety, we must always anticipate and prepare for the next crisis. This is applicable to all of us. We, in the Government, think ahead, anticipate challenges and plan for contingency. Businesses should also do the same, whether for supply security, or financial stability such as managing interest rates movement. I wish MTA and all its members, 开源节流、展翅翱翔。 I extend my heartiest congratulations to MTA and look forward to seeing you take our industry to greater heights.