Singapore imports 90% of its meals — how is it dealing with inflation?

Singapore imports 90% of its meals — how is it dealing with inflation?

A rooftop farm in Singapore on Could 27, 2020. The small island nation lacks pure sources and imports greater than 90% of its meals from greater than 170 international locations and areas.

Lauryn Ishak| Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Singapore is understood for its number of road meals and native cuisines, however many could not comprehend it faces a persistent problem — meals safety.

The more and more urgent concern was thrust into the nationwide highlight after latest meals export bans — particularly, the rooster export ban by neighboring Malaysia, from which Singapore imports 34% of its chickens.

As a small island nation, Singapore lacks pure sources — it imports greater than 90% of its meals from greater than 170 international locations and areas.

With the nation weak to many exterior headwinds, the federal government launched a “30 by 30” initiative to provide 30% of its dietary wants by 2030.

However the nation is already feeling the consequences of rising meals inflation.

Meals costs rose by 4.1% in April from a 12 months earlier, up from 3.3% in March, the Financial Authority of Singapore and Ministry of Commerce and Business mentioned.

World scenario

Hawker stall house owners, particularly, are beginning to really feel the pinch as they’re below strain to maintain costs low for the lots.

Remus Seow, proprietor of Fukudon, a hawker stall promoting Japanese rice bowls, is one instance.

Over the previous six months, the costs of merchandise he buys, akin to cooking oil, eggs, and meat, have gone up between 30% and 45%, he mentioned.

Seow not too long ago raised costs for the primary time since he opened his stall two years in the past. If costs hold growing, 20% to 35% of consumers could not patronize his stall once more, he mentioned.

The Financial Authority of Singapore mentioned elevated international meals costs are anticipated to maintain contributing to native meals inflation past 2022.

World meals costs had already began to rise throughout the pandemic, however the Ukraine warfare has worsened these inflationary pressures.

Meals shortages will proceed within the brief run, and presumably even into subsequent 12 months or two, mentioned Dil Rahut, senior analysis fellow on the Asian Growth Financial institution Institute.

Different international locations can not shortly bounce in to fill within the hole left by Ukraine and Russia as a result of it takes not less than one 12 months to develop recent produce, Rahut mentioned.

Equally, Paul Teng, adjunct senior fellow on the S. Rajaratnam College of Worldwide Research, warned that even when the warfare ends, meals costs won’t instantly revert to pre-war costs.

That is as a result of elements just like the elevated value of gas, labor shortages, and a disrupted provide chain will compound the present scarcity of meals, preserving costs elevated, Teng mentioned.

The World Financial institution has reported that meals costs are anticipated to rise about 20% this 12 months earlier than easing in 2023.


Whereas Singapore continues to be doing comparatively properly in sustaining meals safety, its future is unknown, Teng mentioned.

“Singapore has been downplaying agriculture and importing meals,” he mentioned. “Now we have carried out a U-turn and began to ramp up, however this wants time to repay,” he added.

The “30 by 30” plan goals to provide Singapore a stage of self-production sufficient for it to tide over robust instances, however that will not be sufficient to utterly exchange imports, Teng mentioned.

That is as a result of the federal government has determined to speculate extra in rising the nation’s gross home product and the common family earnings reasonably than investing in agricultural actions, he added.

“So long as you’ve got cash, and so long as there is not any provide chain interruption, then you possibly can at all times purchase meals someplace as a result of the amount we want is (comparatively) not very excessive,” Teng mentioned.

However whereas it could be “technically and technologically” potential for Singapore to realize its aim, two points stay — costs and client attitudes towards “novel meals,” he added.

Teng mentioned customers are specific about shopping for “pure meals” and should not settle for “novel meals” — like lab-grown rooster and various sources of protein — which is a giant a part of the “30 by 30” aim.

However Rahut warned that reaching the aim could be “very laborious” as a result of the deadline is nearing, and Singapore continues to be producing solely 10% of its personal dietary wants.

Individuals may even nonetheless purchase imported meals merchandise in the event that they’re cheaper than native produce until the federal government can subsidize the merchandise, he added.

Seow, likewise, mentioned he would not purchase native produce until costs are in a position to match these of imports.

“However the one manner (ahead) is for the federal government to go forward with it and do their finest to maintain the costs, high quality, and demand of what we want,” he mentioned. “After which folks will slowly settle for (native produce).”

Rahut additionally prompt that advertising and marketing native produce as top quality and nutritious meals could incentivize customers to purchase it at the next value, simply as some are keen to pay extra for merchandise which can be marketed as natural.

What can Singapore do?

Each Teng and Rahut mentioned the federal government can, within the brief time period, present security nets for the deprived, for instance by means of money funds or vouchers.

However Teng added that one among Singapore’s weaknesses is that though it tries to diversify its imports from a basket of nations, it is nonetheless relying closely on only one or two international locations.

For instance, Singapore imported 48% of its chickens from Brazil, and 34% from Malaysia in 2021, the Singapore Meals Company mentioned.

Teng additionally famous that a lot of the chickens imported from Malaysia are stay chickens, whereas the remainder of the chickens imported from Brazil and different international locations are frozen.

On the coverage stage, it can subsequently be necessary to diversify imports for various sorts of produce, Teng mentioned, akin to discovering extra sources of stay chickens to import from.

The federal government also can encourage extra Singapore firms to develop meals abroad and type agreements with different governments to make sure produce is not subjected to export bans, he added.

“The massive image resolution is to verify producing international locations, exporting international locations, have a surplus (of meals), and there is a number of methods we may also help different international locations try this,” Teng mentioned.

Equally, Rahut added that since Singapore is such a technologically superior nation, it may look into serving to different international locations enhance their meals manufacturing programs.

“That won’t solely assist Singapore to stabilize its meals value and meals safety, but additionally international meals safety and meals costs,” Rahut mentioned.

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