With a considerable proportion of farmers in Asia and in the world staying home due to nationwide movement restrictions as well as anxiety of being infected with COVID-19, Singapore’s food supply chain, while still intact, has nevertheless had to bear the aftermath of the decrease in worldwide production abilities in factories and farms.
Augmenting the supply chain drama in Singapore and beyond has been the phenomenon of panic-buying by many kiasu (‘fear of losing out’) consumers.
Certainly, these sobering times have prompted many of us in Singapore and beyond to rethink our supply chain systems and to avoid a global food shortage.
Should we continue our primary existing (and past) reliance on overseas food markets, such as food sources in Malaysia, or should we invest more time and resources in developing our own homegrown food supply?
The answer is not so clear-cut.
Yet, a leaf out of my past experiences living overseas can hopefully provide some food-for-thought with regard to diversifying Singapore’s supply chain.
Having lived in various countries including Thailand, Japan and Poland, I have had my share of shopping experiences with vendors (and farmers) at farmers’ markets. As a Singaporean, I was heartened by the deep-seated local support (in the various countries I was in) for local farmers and producers. Locals were always encouraged to support their local farming industries by buying fresh local produce. While foreign products were not outwardly shunned (at least according to my observations), consumers’ preferences for local products clearly remained etched in my memory.
I know of fellow Japanese acquaintances who only bought Japanese domestic produce and goods simply because they wanted to support their country’s economy. When I was living in Poland, the Poles I encountered also championed a similar form of the “buy and eat local” mindset. I also knew of Thais living in big cities like the capital Bangkok who supported local Thai produce from the countryside with national pride.
Coming from resource-scarce Singapore, I admit that I cannot enjoy the same claim as my Thai/Japanese/Polish counterparts to champion Singaporean only goods and produce. I have to acknowledge Singapore’s inherent limitations and dependence on global food markets in order to keep its population alive and well-fed. Moreover, even as a Singaporean, my list of favorite foods includes the delicate umami flavors of Japanese livestock and the delicious long-grained Vietnamese rice that frequent my dining table. However, despite my food preferences, I still somehow wish that we Singaporeans could be less dependent on foreign food sources, especially in light of the recent pandemic and supply chain disruptions, even as we concoct our local food dishes such as chicken rice and Singapore hokkien mee.
Evidently, the few homegrown Singaporean urban farmers who are passionate about growing local vegetables, fish and fruits are living examples on why Singapore should continue diversifying its food sources and investing in technology to support local agriculture.
For example, Sustenir Agriculture’s local strawberries and Citiponics are two of a growing number of entrepreneurs happy to stake their bets on Singapore’s farming scene. Hopefully, businesses like these would further galvanize Singapore’s population to support and consume local produce on a larger scale — so as to reduce our overdependence on foreign food sources.
Should Singapore invest more in our share of local farming initiatives, perhaps not long in the future, I can join the ranks of my foreign counterparts in actively supporting and consuming fresh local produce.