R&D important to help Singapore improve its food security: Dr Maliki

As trends such as population growth and climate change threaten global food security, Singapore must improve the resilience of its own food supply, said National Development and Defence Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
As trends such as population growth and climate change threaten global food security, Singapore must improve the resilience of its own food supply, said National Development and Defence Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As trends such as population growth and climate change threaten global food security, Singapore must improve the resilience of its own food supply, said National Development and Defence Minister of State Mohamad Maliki Osman.

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food supply, but diversifies its sources across 160 countries so as to spread its risks, he noted. It also encourages local production of key food items, with the Government giving technical and funding support to local farms.

"To push food production beyond the current limits, we must rely on research and development (R&D) to boost productivity," he said on Thursday, at the opening of the second International Conference on Asian Food Security.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority currently works with farms as well as educational and research institutions on R&D, and the Government would like to enhance such collaboration. For example, Nanyang Technological University has partnered the Wageningen University of the Netherlands to work on technology like the conversion of waste to food supplements.

"The food that we consume in the future may be from sources that we cannot even imagine today, but is safe and contributes to our food security," said Dr Maliki.

Besides increasing productivity, R&D is also important in mitigating the effects of climate change on food supply. Dr Maliki recalled the dry spell this February, in which high temperatures lowered the level of dissolved oxygen in Singapore's seawater and caused mass fish deaths in coastal farms.

"It is indeed a timely reminder for all of us that such episodes can occur at any time, and anywhere. We should seize the opportunities to invest in technology now so as to be better prepared to tackle the effects of climate change on farming," he added.

The two-day conference covers topics such as food supply chains and the role of regional co-operation in Asia for food security. It is organised by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and supported by organisations such as Singapore's Ministry of National Development and the National Security Coordination Secretariat, as well as the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia.

Represented in the conference are major multilateral institutions and research centres with an interest in food security, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Rice Research Institute, and the Asian Development Bank.

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