Coronavirus pandemic

Individuals can do their part to strengthen food security: DPM Heng

DPM Heng said reducing food wastage was a very important part of Singapore's plan to boost food security.
DPM Heng said reducing food wastage was a very important part of Singapore's plan to boost food security.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Even as the Government acts to safeguard the food supply in the current outbreak of Covid-19, individuals can also help to strengthen the country's resilience against global supply shocks, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

Singapore has an adequate supply of food. "But if we all rush, then however how much you have, you have a problem," Mr Heng told reporters after touring an aquaculture facility in Neo Tiew.

"When all of us are responsible, we take what we need, we don't waste, and use it properly, then we can overcome this challenge quite well."

At the national level, Singapore has collaborated with nations around the world to diversify its food import sources, maintained a national stockpile, and is also continuously looking to technology and research to boost the productivity of local farms.

Professor William Chen, the Michael Fam Chair Professor in Food Science and Technology at the Nanyang Technological University, said Singapore's "fast and smooth response" in dealing with potential food supply disruptions amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak was a reflection of the Republic's strategic planning in diversification in food import sources. But he also said that consumers should not take food security for granted. People could, for example, learn to waste less food, said Prof Chen.

Mr Heng said reducing food wastage was an important part of Singapore's plan to boost food security. He said: "We have to think about how we can reduce our own food waste. And in that way, we can meet our needs without excessive strain on the system."

He cited the example of a bakery which distributes unsold bread and cakes still fit for consumption to those in the neighbourhood who may need them. "So, that is the kind of spirit that I hope we all have in order to ensure the security of our food sources, to ensure that we have adequate supply," he said.

Prof Chen added that if the coronavirus crisis was a protracted one spanning a few months, consumers could also consider eating more frozen food. "Frozen food has a much longer shelf life than fresh produce, is equally nutritious, cheaper and has much less risk for pathogen contamination."

Frozen food could well be a viable option for consumers in case of need for long-term food storage, he said.

Mr Heng said: "Indeed, I would encourage fellow Singaporeans and people in Singapore to explore different options, and that way, by being open to a greater variety of food, it means that our imports, our new sources can be better accepted."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2020, with the headline 'Individuals can do their part to strengthen food security: DPM'. Print Edition | Subscribe