What If Singapore Ran Out of Food?

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.

Malnutrition consequences

Source: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) at the 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference

Global malnutrition statistics

Source: IFPRI

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.

Ava on Singapore food security at 27th Commonwealth Agriculture Conference

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.

Singapore food security AVA

Source: AVA

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.

Singapore food security roadmap AVA

Source: AVA

There are quite a few initiatives in Singapore to reduce food waste:

Singapore food waste

Source: AVA

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.

Vertical fish farming singapore Productivity

Source: AVA (Apollo Aquaculture Group-Vertical fish farming)

Kok Fah Technology Farm harvest technology productivity

Source: AVA (Kok Fah Technology Farm-using harvest technology to improve productivity)

Sky Greens-Vertical Vegetable Farming Technology

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.

Research and Development to improve food productivity

Source: AVA

C4 rice increased yield

Source: IFPRI

There is (unsurprisingly) even a productivity fund for Singapore’s agricultural industry.

Agricultural productivity fund

Source: AVA

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.

Singapore flag chilli rice

Source: inspirefusion.com

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.

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