Letter of the week: Increase demand for local produce

A grow room in local urban farm Commonwealth Greens.
A grow room in local urban farm Commonwealth Greens.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of its food, making it highly susceptible to supply-chain shocks. This weakness was highlighted at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when disruptions in food supply caused food prices to increase significantly.

Commendably, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has introduced initiatives aimed at encouraging local farming, to decrease our reliance on imports.

Initiatives such as the 30x30 Express grant provide greater financial support for local food production, while industry guides made by SFA make it easier to start farming in Singapore.

However, we should not forget that besides targeting the suppliers of local produce, we need to address the demand for local produce too. Local farms can grow only so large without enough customers buying their produce.

Present schemes aimed at raising awareness of and demand for local produce include SFA's recent launch of a local produce logo to enable consumers to identify local produce (Look out for red logo - to spot and support local food produce, Aug 7), and the introduction of the Singapore Food Story campaign to encourage consumption of local produce.

To further increase consumption, I propose the deployment of "support local" ambassadors at supermarkets and wet markets, to communicate to shoppers the existence and merits of local produce and encourage them to buy it.

Moreover, considering how Singaporeans are price sensitive, an incentive scheme similar to the Health Promotion Board's Healthy 365 challenge could be introduced for local produce.

For example, customers could earn points for every purchase of local produce, with graduated rewards such as rebates or a free local produce item of their choice after obtaining a certain number of points.

The Government could also consider offering tax incentives to food and beverage companies that use local produce in their ingredients.

Overall, by increasing the demand for local produce, local farms could scale up efforts to accommodate it, hopefully achieving economies of scale and thus increasing their sustainability.

Brandon Koh Wai Loong