Food and the City: Overcoming Challenges for Food Security

Food and The City: Overcoming Challenges for Food Security

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Singapore, a culinary paradise, has achieved food security despite being an acutely land-scarce country. Over the past five decades, an evolving mix of strategies and policies have ensured a reliable supply of safe, nutritious and affordable food for its citizens and residents. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore as the world’s fourth-highest food secure country in 2017.

Singapore was reliant on food imports even prior to independence in 1965 as local farm production was insufficient to meet its needs. Since then, with more land being required for urgent national needs—such as housing, industry and building water catchments—it has actively sourced most of its food from diverse geographic locations to minimise the risk of disruptions. Stockpiling of essential items and government policies encouraging the intensive use of technology to maximise local production of key items like fish, vegetables and eggs have also helped to ensure uninterrupted supply in the face of external shocks.

These strategies helped Singapore overcome supply disruptions arising from the Nipah virus and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemics in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well at the 2008 global food crisis that led to the doubling of rice prices.

Import diversification, stockpiling and optimising local production constitute the three core strategies of Singapore’s Food Security Roadmap. The blueprint also includes research and development (R&D) for increasing the productivity and shelf life of edible goods, measures to reduce wastage along the supply chain, along with contingency planning and communications strategies for achieving food resilience.

Government agencies have also developed a robust framework for inspection and certification to ensure that imported and locally produced food is safe for consumption, and also to maintain safety and affordability of cooked food sold at Singapore’s ubiquitous hawker centres.

While Singapore’s agricultural land has shrunk from 25% of its total area in the 1960s to less than 1% today, state-funded schemes and incentives to spur technology adoption and boost productivity have helped to create a thriving urban farming sector capable of supplementing its food needs. At a time when the world is exploring new food sources and technologies for meeting nutritional requirements, Singapore’s high standards of safety and quality, along with its R&D, technological capabilities and logistics infrastructure have also put it in a strong position to become a forerunner in urban food solutions in the future.