It’s been a long time since Singapore had major food security issues.
I remember growing up watching Channel 8 dramas about World War II. Besides the fear of being tortured and killed, I vividly remember how people struggled terribly with the lack of food.
There was one scene of a man complaining to his mother about only having tapioca to eat. She berated him for being unappreciative of having something to eat while others were starving. He still complained because eating so much tapioca caused his feet to swell in pain.
Now the world has a different type of hunger. The populations of developed and developing countries have imbalanced diets (this doesn’t mean they’re going hungry), causing malnutrition and they are paying a high price for it.
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) at the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference
In Singapore, the “major food crises” we have had in recent times were shortage of specific types of food, like eggs, rice, fish etc.
Unlike many third world countries, we have no real lack of access to nutritious food. Conversely, the Singapore government is trying so hard to get people to consume less calories!
How kiasu is Singapore about food security?
According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) at the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference, food security isn’t just about having enough food available.
Source: AVA at the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference
This government statutory board also considers factors like accessibility, affordability and if the food is safe and nutritious.
AVA has a Food Security Roadmap that looks at diversifying food import sources, stockpiling, R&D, reducing food waste and ensuring affordability of food, etc.
There are quite a few initiatives in Singapore to reduce food waste:
- Composting food scraps
- Distributing unsold food to needy
- Embracing ugly food
- Food waste recycling machines in schools
- Measuring food waste with indexes
How productive is Singapore’s agricultural industry?
Being a tiny island, we don’t have that much land to spare to farms.
Every farm has to think hard how to make every square metre of their land count.
The following 3 Singapore farms have used technology to improve their land productivity.
Source: AVA (Apollo Aquaculture Group-Vertical fish farming)
Source: AVA (Kok Fah Technology Farm-using harvest technology to improve productivity)
Source: AVA (Sky Greens-Vertical Vegetable Farming Technology)
R&D has led to new strains and breeds of fish and rice which grow faster and are more resistant to environment factors.
There is (unsurprisingly) even a productivity fund for Singapore’s agricultural industry.
But will all these plans save us from running out of food?
Community gardening/farming is becoming more popular, but it cannot feed all our 5+ million population.
Even if every household stockpiled on canned food, we rely even more heavily on water, which NeWater is one source, but still isn’t enough to fulfil our water needs.
Sometimes I spend a few moments standing in front of my fridge and pantry staring at the food I have, wondering how long my family can last on what we have at home, and whether I should be a little more obsessed about stockpiling food just in case a major national incident causes a huge run on groceries and leads to a massive out-of-stock on necessities.
What if someone bombs the Singapore Causeway, or cuts off trade routes to Singapore? Who will come to our rescue?
Our neighbours whose politicians we often ridicule on social media?
The more I think about it, the less I can sleep.
Also published on Medium.