30th October 2020

Local Produce and Imported Produce: What We Need to Know

SUSTAINABILITY  By SAFEF

When it comes to local and imported produce, there are many factors that impact the availability of each, such as climate and the availability of land.

As Singapore lies one degree north of the equator, we only have one season all year round. And being a highly-populated and land-scarce urban city with a population of 5.7 million and only 724 sq km of land, less than 1% of our land is available for farming. So, it is not surprising that there is a limit to the quantity and variety of produce we are able to farm in Singapore. This is why we are currently producing less than 10% of the food we eat, and more than 90% is imported from around the world.

Given that we import over 90% of our food, Singapore is very vulnerable to volatilities in the global food market and disruptions in our food supplies. This vulnerability will only become more acute in time, as global crop yields are estimated to decline by up to 25% by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change. These include environmental changes such as rising temperatures and extreme weather conditions such as floods or droughts.

In order to be prepared for the impacts of climate change, which are becoming more apparent globally at an alarming rate, Singapore needs to have a realistic and sustainable food security model.

Let’s take a look at what’s being done to ensure our food supply resilience, and how important local and imported produce are to our food security.

 

Singapore’s Food Security

Because of our limited natural resources, it is understandable that we cannot be 100% self-sufficient, and we need to import the types of produce that we are not able to farm here. However, we can reduce our reliance on imports by producing more of what we can farm.

Food security is high on our nation’s agenda. Initiatives like Singapore’s Food Security Roadmap and 2020: Singapore Food Story are steering Singapore towards ensuring a more resilient supply of food for us, from local as well as import sources.

While both local and imported produce are important to Singapore’s food security, we are aiming to produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030 to reduce our reliance on imports. In fact, to strengthen our food security, Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is pursuing 3 broad strategies called the 3 Food Baskets:

  1. Grow more locally to provide a bigger buffer against overseas supply disruptions
  2. Grow overseas to help local companies expand abroad and export food back when necessary
  3. Diversify import sources to reduce the risk of reliance on any single food supply source

There are 220 farms in Singapore, comprising 121 fish farms, 77 leafy vegetable farms, 6 beansprout farms, 5 chicken / quail egg farms, and 11 farms that produce other types of food. Collectively, our food farms produce 10% of our fish consumption (4,700 tonnes), 26% of our egg consumption (528 million pieces), and 14% of our leafy vegetable consumption (12,700 tonnes).

At the same time, Singapore imports over 93,611 tonnes of fish, 1.5 million hen eggs and 452,980 tonnes of vegetables every year!

With the support of the Singapore government, more and more of our farms are embracing technology to ramp up production of local produce and boost our food security.

 

Why We Should Support Local

While we can’t do away with imports, we can certainly do more to make a conscious decision to choose local over imported produce when a choice is available, so as to support our local farmers and enable them to produce more. Because much as we would like our farms to increase the supply of local produce to boost our food security, the economics won’t make sense unless consumer demand also increases in tandem. So, when given a choice between local and imported produce, choose local whenever possible, to reduce our reliance on imports and support our “30 by 30” goal, which is a vital part of Singapore’s food security.

When buying food from the supermarket or another retailer, our purchasing decisions may be based on a number of different factors as we weigh the pros and cons of local and imported produce. It may be easy to look past the country of origin in favour of price. However, what we choose to buy has far-reaching impacts. Apart from directly affecting Singapore’s food supply resilience, our purchasing decisions also affect the freshness, safety and nutritional content of the food we eat, as well as our environment and economy.

As supporting local produce is important in ensuring food supply resilience for Singapore, when shopping for fresh produce, be sure to look for the country of origin and make Singapore-farmed produce our Number 1 choice.

Let’s take a closer look at why we should buy local and eat local.

 

Freshness, Nutrient Density and Food Safety

Compared with imported produce, local produce take a shorter time to get from the farms to the stores and to our plates. As fresh produce start losing nutrients as soon as they are harvested, this means local produce are fresher and retain more nutrients. And when food is eaten at the peak of freshness, it tastes better too!

We can also be assured that local produce are safe to eat. Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has stringent farming regulations. For example, our farms are only allowed to use agricultural pesticides that are registered with SFA.

For extra quality assurance, look for locally-farmed eggs, vegetables and fish that are from farms which are certified and accredited under these quality assurance schemes:

 

Environmental Impact

Eating local produce reduces our impact on the environment as the distance our food travels to get to us affect the amount of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions that our food produces.

Transport has a direct impact on the climate, and produce that are transported by air leave a particularly high carbon footprint. Making the shift to locally-farmed produce can have a positive impact on the environment if enough people commit to making a change. So, let’s consider whether or not we truly need those produce that are imported by air, or whether we can buy local instead.

Another reason to buy local is because local produce are fresher, therefore they remain edible for a longer period of time. This results in less food waste.

A food system that is truly sustainable is one that supports local farmers, while conserving natural resources for future generations. To optimise resources and conserve land use, an increasing number of farms in Singapore is using agriculture technology and alternative farming methods like vertical, indoor and even rooftop farming.

So, choosing to buy local produce over imported produce whenever possible can help to reduce wastage and ensure that the limited land in Singapore is used efficiently and productively.

 

Economic Impact

Choosing to buy produce from Singapore’s agro-food industry also supports our local farmers, enables them to produce more and sell more, and ensures that the money we spend goes back to Singapore’s economy for more robust growth.

 

Make an Informed Decision With Local and Imported Produce

In line with Singapore’s move towards a more food-resilient future, buying fresh produce that has been farmed in Singapore is not only great for our health, but also for our environment, economy and the future of our country.

Besides the nutritional, environmental and economic benefits, buying locally-farmed produce supports the farmers in Singapore, who are working hard to ensure we have safe food to eat and Singapore has a resilient food supply.

So, choose Singapore-farmed produce whenever possible! Support our farmers, our economy, and our food security. Buy locally-farmed produce at e-SG Farmers’ Market anytime, and have fresh local produce delivered right to your doorstep!

Fresh Produce logo