How Will COVID-19 Impact Singapore’s Food Security?
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on families around the world, as well as the world’s economies, healthcare systems, and food security.
As life transitions to a new normal, many people can’t help but notice there have been significant changes to our daily lives. It could be as obvious as riding on a much less crowded form of public transport, or finding that what you need in the store is no longer available. Over the last few months, we have witnessed how the uncertainty and fear of the situation triggered ‘short-term’ effects on human behaviours, resulting in panic buying and the hoarding of food and household necessities.
This brings us to the longer-term effect of the pandemic itself – the ability to access food, or specific types of food. With much of the world relying on food trade with other countries, the closing of borders and ceasing of trade have been truly detrimental for countries and businesses that rely on these imports and exports. Farmers, retailers, and traders have seen either a complete stop in business or have had to drastically change the way they operate in a short amount of time due to the various restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that Singaporeans are concerned about the short- and longer-term ramifications of COVID-19 on our food security. A lot of questions have arisen. Will our food sources and consumer practices need to be changed as we adapt to a new normal? Or will food trade return to the way things were before COVID-19’s entry into the world?
What are the Key Pillars of Food Security?
And How Food Secure is Singapore?
Food security is a measure of the availability of food and an individual’s ability to access it. The way this is ascertained is by taking into account the three core pillars of food security: availability, affordability, and quality & safety.
In June 2020, the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) 2019 Asia Pacific regional report was released, identifying Singapore as the most food secure country in Asia Pacific, and the world.
This is great news for Singapore! However, we can’t take our food security for granted, especially when over 90% of our food are imported. It is critical that Singapore remains food secure and avoids the issues and challenges that some other countries are struggling with, such as disruptions to supply chains and local food production. Otherwise, Singapore’s food security could be in jeopardy too!
What Opportunities & Considerations Exist for Singapore’s Food Security?
Singapore is home to 5.7 million people, residing on 720 square kilometres of land. We produce less than 10 percent of our food requirements, as our food security challenge is inextricably linked to the bigger issue of land scarcity. We look at how new farming technologies and innovations are creating new possibilities, and how consumers and the government have important roles to play in strengthening Singapore’s food security.
Increasing Food Production Capacity Using Alternative Farming Methods
To safeguard against supply chain disruptions, the Singapore government has set a ’30 by 30’ vision for Singapore to produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030. With less than one percent of Singapore’s land allocated to farming in land-scarce Singapore, achieving this goal will involve developing and implementing innovative non-traditional farming methods.
Alternative farming methods – including rooftop, vertical, indoor, and high-tech farming – are increasingly playing a key role in boosting our levels of local production and increasing Singapore’s overall food security. Hydroponic and aquaponic technologies, which do not require the use of soil to grow produce, have made it possible for farmers to use the roofs of car parks, space-saving vertical growing racks, and indoor spaces housed in existing buildings, for farming.
In May 2020, a tender was put up by Singapore Food Agency (SFA) for vegetables and other crops to be grown on the rooftops of nine public housing multi-storey car parks. This followed the successful introduction of commercial rooftop farming by ComCrop, which now operates a rooftop farm in Woodlands Industrial Estate and sells its leafy greens at FairPrice Finest supermarkets and e-SG Farmers’ Market on RedMart.
A Greater Push for More Sustainable At-Home and Consumer Practices
For Singaporeans to feel more food secure, everyone has to play their part. Adopting and maintaining more sustainable food practices may not come naturally to everyone initially, but with some effort, can become one of the simplest ways to contribute to a food secure future.
One way to do this is to buy cultivation kits (often available at our farmers’ markets), and try your hand at growing your own edible crops in your very own little household ‘farm’ using whatever space you have available. Joining community farms, which allow groups of locals to come together to grow crops in shared spaces, is another way to drive sustainable food practices within the community. Growing your own edible crops will help you appreciate food more and waste less. Many who engage in this practice find it a satisfying ‘hobby’ as you can watch the fruit of your labour grow into a bountiful crop. Moreover, what comes with time is a new appreciation for our local farmers, who work hard to contribute to our food security every day.
Supporting Singapore’s farmers by buying locally-farmed produce at our farmers’ markets, supermarkets, and online stores, are easy commitments that each and every Singaporean can make.
Growing your own food and supporting local farms when you shop for groceries are both parts of a bigger behavioural shift that the Singaporean community needs to go through in order to enable local farmers to grow more of the food we need to boost our food security.
Joint Ministerial Statement on Commitment to Maintaining Open Supply Chains
Singapore’s current good standing for food security is a goal we all need to work towards to ensure it remains at a high level.
In March 2020, Singapore and six other countries issued a joint ministerial statement on their commitment to uphold trade connectivity amid the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the flow of goods.
While food imports are a key part of the government’s overall strategy, it’s important to keep local production at the top of our minds. We need to start implementing more sustainable practices now, and maintain them even after lockdown restrictions ease and more businesses and borders re-open.
Increasing production at local farms and encouraging more consumers to choose local produce over imported produce are processes that will take time to come to fruition. But with the right support and sustained effort from everyone, we can make our fresh food supply more resilient in the long-run and become less reliant on imports overall.
Support Singapore’s Food Security
There’s never been a better time to buy Singapore-farmed produce. Support local produce, and be a part of a more food secure, self-sufficient, and sustainable Singapore.
Shop at e-SG Farmers’ Market today!