Parliament: Importers of key food items to have plans for supply disruptions

Singapore imports food from about 180 countries as part of its diversification strategy, and also aims to raise local food production. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Importers of key food items may soon be required to come up with preventive strategies and other plans to mitigate the impact of food supply disruptions to Singapore, which imports more than 90 per cent of its food, and is vulnerable to factors affecting global supply such as disease outbreaks and climate change.

This and other measures to beef up Singapore's food security were included in two Bills tabled in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 15) to dissolve the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and split its functions between the National Parks Board (NParks) and a new statutory board to oversee food safety and security.

The AVA will cease to exist in April and its plant and animal-related functions, including animal welfare, will be transferred to NParks.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA), meanwhile, will be formed on April 1 and take over food-related functions of the AVA, National Environment Agency and Health Sciences Authority.

The new agency, which will come under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, aims to boost food safety standards for consumers and strengthen local food businesses.

Four agencies and about 1,150 staff are involved in the reorganisation, which was first announced in July last year. The Bills to effect the process were introduced in Parliament on Tuesday by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling.

Under the changes, NParks will become the lead agency for animal and wildlife management. Its new roles will include regulating veterinary establishments and practitioners as well as the trade in endangered species of animals and plants.

The Ministry of National Development said in response to queries that the operational details for the new import requirements are being worked out, and importers will be engaged in due course.

Singapore imports food from about 180 countries as part of its diversification strategy, and also aims to raise local food production, a spokesman said.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday the local retail price of eggs increased by about 4 per cent between June and November last year, in part due to significant price increases from some of Singapore's import sources.

About 73 per cent of eggs consumed in Singapore are imported, with Malaysian farms forming a key source of supplies.

Malaysia said last month that it was looking into limiting or stopping the export of eggs to ensure a sufficient supply for the domestic market.

Mr Elson Tan, manager of egg importer Lam Leng Trading, said that importers have been growing the diversity of their sources over the years, with the AVA organising overseas food sourcing trips and helping to match importers with suppliers in Thailand, for example.

Mr Tan, who assists his father in chairing the Eggs Import/Export Trading Association, said: "Malaysia still makes up the majority, but we are not too reliant on one source - there are other countries like Australia and New Zealand also."

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