Oral Reply to Parliamentary Questions on Food Security by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
*2959. Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo : To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment with countries curbing the export of their produce (a) what measures are in place to ensure Singapore's continued supply of key food items; (b) what further measures will be taken to prevent future disruptions to Singapore's food supply; and (c) what support can be extended to businesses and consumers to help manage the impact and rising costs as a result of disruptions to food supply.
*2962. Ms Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether the Ministry will consider setting some local production targets for poultry and poultry products under the "30 by 30" food production target of SFA to enhance the resilience of Singapore's supply of poultry.
*3007. Mr Desmond Choo : To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what has been the impact on local businesses and consumers in relation to Malaysia's export ban on chicken; (b) how has the Ministry been engaging with the Malaysian government on the supply of poultry; and (c) how will the Ministry protect our local consumers from similar supply shocks involving other products.
*3028. Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) between 2018 and 2021, what is the amount (in tonnes) of live and chilled poultry imported into Singapore from each country or territory; and (b) what are the constraints to expanding the number of approved countries for poultry imports.
*3045. Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis : To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether there will be a review of the "30 by 30" target on self-sustainability in food production in view of the rising food security concerns; (b) whether there are plans to accelerate self-sustainability in food production; and (c) what is the long-term target on local food production and nutrition needs beyond the year 2030.
*3115. Mr Alex Yam Ziming: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether the Ministry has been informed in advance of the Malaysian authorities' decision to stop cross-border supply of fresh chickens; and (b) how has this month-long suspension affected local businesses thus far.
*3102. Mr Shawn Huang Wei Zhong: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment with regard to Malaysia's export ban of poultry (a) what has been the impact of the chicken supply disruption; and (b) what will be the long-term approach for the poultry supply in Singapore.
*2960. Mr Edward Chia Bing Hui : To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment regarding the announcement by several countries to impose export restrictions on key food produce (a) what is the Ministry's assessment of its impact on food prices in Singapore and our supply chain resilience, should such restriction broaden and last beyond three months; (b) what are the circumstances for considering the need to leverage on our crisis stockpile; and (c) what other strategic options, both externally and internally, are being considered to enhance our food supply portfolio.
1 Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to answer Parliamentary Questions number 32 to 37 together? My response will also address PQs filed by Mr Edward Chia and Mr Shawn Huang, due for reading at subsequent sittings.
Global food supply situation
2 Global food supply chains are highly interlinked. Disruptions to the production, export or transportation of agricultural inputs or food products in one country or region often have knock-on effects on other parts of the food supply chain. These can arise from many causes, including geopolitical tensions, extreme weather events, disruptions to logistics chains or policy decisions by foreign governments. Some food producing countries have reacted by imposing export bans or restrictions on food items. Indonesia's recent palm oil export ban, India's wheat and sugar export bans and Malaysia's chicken export ban are recent examples.
Our food supply resilience strategies
3 Singapore imports more than 90% of our food. We cannot fully prevent such disruptions. However, we have adopted a multi-pronged approach to mitigate the impacts. Let me elaborate.
4 First, we work with the industry to build resilience in their supply networks. SFA supports the industry's diversification efforts by actively accrediting multiple overseas food sources. SFA also helps to accredit new source countries, regions and suppliers in order to give our importers more choices. Through import licensing, SFA requires egg importers to have a Business Continuity Plan and have measures such as diversifying import sources, signing retainer contracts or holding a buffer stock. These measures help to mitigate the impact of disruptions from any single source. We currently import our food from over 170 countries and regions. We will continue our diversification efforts.
5 Specific to the chicken export ban, chicken from Malaysia accounts for 34% of our total chicken imports. This has dropped by 3%, from 37%, in 2018. While this accounts for 99% of our live and chilled chicken imports, at about 73,000 tonnes in 2021, we have the alternative of frozen chicken available. Frozen chicken provides us with greater food resilience as industrial freezing extends the shelf life of the meat. Under proper storage conditions, frozen meat can be kept for up to a year. It enlarges our pool of available choices to include suppliers from countries that are further away like Brazil and the United States.
6 In the recent chicken export ban, we saw industry partners such as SATS and trade associations such as the Meat Traders Association and the Poultry Merchants Association increase imports of frozen chicken from the United States and Brazil, and chilled chicken from Thailand and Australia. SFA has also recently accredited Indonesia as a new source for the import of chicken.
7 Mr Gerald Giam asked if there were constraints to expanding the number of approved countries for poultry imports. Even as we diversify our food sources, food safety remains paramount. Only accredited sources that meet Singapore's food safety and animal health standards will be allowed to export to Singapore. This has not hindered our diversification efforts. Specifically for chicken, 25 countries are accredited.
8 Second, we intend to grow more food locally to serve as a buffer in times of supply disruption. We are building the capability and capacity of our agri-food industry to produce up to 30% of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030, up from less than 10% today.
9 Mr Louis Chua asked whether we have plans to accelerate "30 by 30". The "30 by 30" goal is already very ambitious. Singapore is a land-scarce country. We only have about 1% of our land set aside for agri-food production, given other competing land uses. To achieve "30 by 30", we need a significant transformation of Singapore's agri-food sector. As part of this transformation, SFA has recently embarked on the holistic master-planning of the 390-hectare Lim Chu Kang area. It will take time for these plans to be implemented.
10 Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Shawn Huang asked if we could have poultry production in Singapore. Given our land, labour, energy and water constraints, we prefer to concentrate on farming food items that can be produced in a resource-efficient and commercially sustainable manner. For example, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that producing 1 kg of chicken for meat would generate about 3 times that of some fish. We currently have about 260 local farms producing food items that are commonly consumed and have local demand, such as eggs, fish and vegetables.
11 To Mr Edward Chia's question on our crisis stockpile, the government works closely with industry partners to maintain stockpiles of essential food items in order to mitigate the impact of any unforeseen disruptions to our food supply. These stockpiles will help to stabilise supplies during periods of acute disruption as imports from other sources are ramped up. As mentioned by PM Lee recently, the government had begun to build up our stockpiles to a higher level at the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic as we were concerned with possible disruptions to our food supply.
Support for businesses and consumers
12 I have described our food security strategies to mitigate the risks of unavailability of supply. However, we will not be able to eliminate all risks. To so do would be costly and uneconomical. We will also not be able to isolate Singapore from the price fluctuations of food supply. As we have seen in recent months, even countries with sizeable food production capabilities face higher food prices because of higher prices of feedstock, fertilizers and transportation costs. Price control or subsidies for food distorts business conditions and may not be financially sustainable. Instead, to address households' concerns over rising prices, DPM Wong recently announced the $1.5 billion Support Package, which includes a GSTV-Cash Special Payment in August of up to $300 in August to support lower-income individuals.All Singaporean households would also have received a $100 CDC Voucher in May to help with daily expenses.
13 Ms Jessica Tan asked about our support to businesses and consumers. During the ban, our businesses using chicken from Malaysia were able to have access to chicken from alternate sources. The majority of poultry market stalls and chicken rice hawker stalls have remained open. We have also linked up affected hawkers and market stallholders with the Meat Traders Association to switch to frozen or thawed frozen chicken. Our businesses have shown resilience by adapting and pivoting to alternatives, as they have done so with previous disruptions over the COVID-19 pandemic. If needed, we will extend assistance and relieve the burden on businesses and households, as we have done so in the past.
Engagements with the Malaysian Government
14 Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Alex Yam asked about our engagement with the Malaysian government on the chicken export ban. Although the news of the export prohibition broke on 23 May 2022, SFA was officially notified by the Malaysian Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) on 31 May of Malaysia's export prohibition of chicken to Singapore that was effective from 1 June. SFA continues to keep in close contact with the Malaysian DVS.
15 Because of climate change, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and disruptions in supply chains globally, we expect more disruptions to our food supply ahead of us. While our multi-pronged strategy has worked well in mitigating the impact of such disruptions, we remain vigilant and nimble in the execution of our strategy when new conditions emerge. Businesses should similarly review their Business Continuity Plan and diversify their supplies. Households and individuals too can contribute to our food resilience by accommodating changes and pivoting to other food types when one is not available. The critical success factor of our food security is the ability of Singaporeans – businesses, consumers, policy makers, together collectively, to adapt, adjust and remain resilient in the face of supply disruptions. Together, we can and will face any challenges that may come our way.