Forum: Vital to cultivate local food production sectors

Blk 448 Clementi Wet Market on March 17, 2020.
Blk 448 Clementi Wet Market on March 17, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call, not just in terms of public health, but also in relation to Singapore's dependency on food imports (Diverse sources feed Singapore's supply, March 28).

It is fortunate that essential lines of supply have remained open despite major food-supplying countries such as Malaysia going into lockdown.

However, is Singapore prepared to face the not-implausible scenario of being completely cut off by international crises?

In the event of complete isolation, the much-touted three-pronged strategy of obtaining food and supplies from 170 faraway nations would seem moot, while stockpiling of essential, often perishable goods can sustain a country of 5.7 million only for so long.

As food security is so vital to our existence, we ought to seriously cultivate domestic food production industries as a national strategic asset.

China provided a good example of self-sufficiency when it subsidised over 200 million farmers to keep the strategic agricultural industry going.

The present target in Singapore - of domestic production meeting 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs by 2030 - is simply insufficient.

Conventional wisdom might dictate that land-scarce Singapore is wholly unsuitable for agricultural activity, but the solutions to that may lie with high-rise farming for vegetables, or investment in lab-grown meats.

It is also imperative that we begin producing complementary products such as cooking oil, sugar and salt, toilet paper and surgical masks, rather than relying on production facilities abroad.

Maintaining strategic industries with subsidies is worth the expense when national survival is at stake.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2020, with the headline 'Vital to cultivate local food production sectors'. Print Edition | Subscribe