Singapore tops food security index for 2nd straight year

Singapore also saw an increase in sufficiency of its food supply as a result of food sources being more diversified than ever. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Singaporeans are among the most well-fed populations in the world, according to a recent study.

The Republic emerged tops for the second year running in the Global Food Security Index, which assesses if people have access to affordable, quality food to meet their nutritional needs.

Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and supported by Corteva Agriscience, the global index analysed 113 countries across three categories: how affordable food is; whether people have physical access to food; and how safe and nutritious the available food is.

Singapore achieved a score of 87.4, more than three points ahead of runner-up Ireland.

It is the only Asian nation to make it to the top 20 on the list.

Mr Sumana Rajarethnam, director of public policy at the EIU and author of the report, said food has become more affordable in Singapore compared with last year - mainly due to a rise in the gross domestic product per capita.

He added that Singapore has also seen an increase in sufficiency of its food supply as a result of food sources being more diversified.

This point was echoed by Singapore Food Agency (SFA) chairman Lim Chuan Poh.

He told The Straits Times that Singapore's primary strategy in food security was to import food from a range of sources, "so that there is no one single critical item that comes only from one single location anywhere in the world, however stable the supply source is".

As of last year, Singapore imported its food from more than 180 countries, compared with 140 countries in 2004.

Another reason that Singapore scored high on the index, said Mr Lim, is that economic growth over the years has led to Singaporeans' increased purchasing power, allowing them to afford quality food.

When asked what SFA does to make good-quality, nutritious food affordable for lower-income Singaporeans, Mr Lim said: "I think there are nutritious foods that are affordable.

"I grew up on porridge, bean sprouts and bean curd. I can go to the market today and buy these same items at a very affordable price. In fact, I would say they are cheaper than... fast food."

When climate-related and natural resource risk factors were taken into account, import-reliant Singapore fared worse - falling to 12th place on the index.

This is why Singapore's "30 by 30" goal - to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030 - is critical, said Mr Lim.

"As Singapore imports most of our food, we are vulnerable to external shocks that impact global food supply. To make our diversified import strategy more robust, we intend to complement this with increased local production," he said.

"Harnessing innovative, climate-resilient technologies will be the key for us to increase our local production in a sustainable way."

According to a United Nations report released earlier this year, about one in nine people - or an estimated 820 million people - does not have enough to eat.

The report by EIU listed poverty, lack of agricultural infrastructure as well as global availability of essential vitamins and minerals as the top three challenges that countries worldwide face in ensuring food security.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2019, with the headline Singapore tops food security index for 2nd straight year. Subscribe