We currently aren’t running low on fish in Singapore. However, it could happen anytime, if you consider that only about 8 per cent of fish is actually produced locally. The rest is being imported from surrounding countries. The aim is though to increase this number up to 15 per cent. Although it is almost double than what it is currently, it isn’t very much. Food in Singapore seems to be trending topic of discussing – no matter where one turns.
Senior Minister of State for National Development and Home Affairs Desmond Lee said last week that Singapore has to raise local food production as well as diversify its various food sources. Singapore is currently still depending to some extend on neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia, who occasionally provides up to 25 per cent of Singapore’s fish supply. However, in the past there have been instances of bans on exporting various different fish. In order to lower the risk of fish shortages in Singapore, the republic has to become more self-sufficient when it comes to food in Singapore, so Mr. Lee.
Although Singapore is very depended on its neighbours for food supply, it is ironically rated as the second-most food secure country in the world (number one being the Untied States) by the Unit’s Global Food Security Index. The criteria for making such a statement are affordability, availability, and quality and safety. In terms of affordability Singapore even ranks first in the world. Singapore is ahead of all its major food suppliers, such as Malaysia and Australia.
Nonetheless, Singapore still imports almost 90 per cent of all its food and uses less than 1 per cent of its own land for agriculture.
What are the Alternatives?
A very simple (and on a basic level manageable) alternative is to reduce the food waste. Statistically we still waste one third of our food. Trying to reduce our waste helps not only on a personal level, but also can improve the ever-constant need to import food in Singapore.
The diversifying of food is another possibility. As fish is a major part of the Singaporean diet, the country is heavily dependent for supplies. Turning towards locally produced food isn’t easy and requires a vast effort.
Perhaps the most interesting alternative is to invest in innovative food science and emerging technologies that can assist in supplying more food in Singapore. Scientists and urban agriculture have outlined several possibilities, including Singapore’s rooftops as well as highly advanced greenhouses that are able to control their very own environment, such as in temperature, nutrients, air flow and carbon dioxide levels. Singapore has already shown what it is capable of – the innovative Pulau Semakau, which is the world’s very first offshore landfill, could be used for very intensive and efficient agriculture techniques.
However, even local produce can be fragile as seen earlier this year. A plankton bloom had wiped out over 600 tones of fish in March. Mr. Lee has hence called for an aquaculture industry needs to advance even further when it comes to innovation and technology in order to increase the productivity of fish farms.