More must be done to boost local aquaculture

There is an ongoing assumption that ornamental-fish farmers can move into aquaculture to help boost food security in Singapore.

While doing this may be easy, it is not the long-term solution to ensuring food security, which includes reducing the reliance on foreign imports, even for seed stock.

This is especially so when there are concerns such as biosecurity risks and the use of harmful chemicals.

Singapore is in need of technical expertise to fully close the life cycle of fish species used as food. Very few private companies here have this capability.

There also needs to be more research and development into live-feed production, and into lowering feed costs while improving feed conversion ratios.

The basics of aquaculture training have to be strong.

Foreign fish imports have been used to satisfy key performance indicators to gain additional government funding.

This is unsustainable and more support has to be given to enterprises with a full experience or background in aquaculture.

While government funding is definitely appreciated, it should not be used as a means to attract market players.

A better way would be to subsidise operating expenses. Utilities and labour costs make up the bulk of operating expenses - it is the overheads that ultimately determine if an aquaculture operation survives.

Local produce also needs to be priced competitively to encourage consumers to make the change from foreign imports.

More thought needs to go into how to make this work.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline 'More must be done to boost local aquaculture'. Print Edition | Subscribe