Singapore imports 90% of its food – how does it deal with inflation?

A rooftop farm in Singapore on Might 27, 2020. The small island nation lacks pure assets and imports greater than 90% of its meals from greater than 170 nations and territories.

Lauren Isaac | Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Singapore is understood for its vast number of avenue meals and native delicacies, however many might not know that it faces an ongoing problem – meals safety.

The more and more urgent difficulty has been thrown into the nationwide highlight after the latest meals export ban – particularly, the ban on the export of hen by neighboring Malaysia, of which Singapore is It imports 34% of its hen.

As a small island nation, Singapore lacks pure assets – It imports greater than 90% of its meals from greater than 170 nations and areas.

With the nation uncovered to many exterior headwinds, the federal government launched the “30 x 30” initiative for manufacturing 30% of its dietary wants by 2030.

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

The Financial Authority and Singapore’s Ministry of Commerce and Business mentioned meals costs rose 4.1% in April from a yr earlier, up from 3.3% in March.

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Hawker sales space house owners, particularly, are beginning to get upset As a result of they’re below stress to maintain costs low for the plenty.

One instance is Remus Search engine marketing, proprietor of Fukudon, a peddler stall promoting bowls of Japanese rice.

He identified that the costs of the merchandise he buys through the previous six months, akin to cooking oil, eggs and meat, have risen by between 30% and 45%.

Seow lately raised costs for the primary time since he opened his sales space two years in the past. He mentioned that if costs proceed to rise, 20% to 35% of shoppers might not do enterprise along with his kiosk once more.

The Financial Authority of Singapore mentioned that top world meals costs are anticipated to proceed contributing to home meals inflation past 2022.

World meals costs had already began to rise through the pandemic, however the Ukraine battle soared Inflationary pressures exacerbated.

The meals shortages will persist within the brief time period, even perhaps the subsequent yr or two, mentioned Del Rahut, a senior researcher on the Asian Growth Financial institution Institute.

Different nations can not soar rapidly to fill the hole left by Ukraine and Russia as a result of it takes at the very least one yr to develop recent produce, Rahut mentioned.

Equally, Paul Teng, Senior Affiliate Fellow on the S Rajaratnam Faculty of Worldwide Research, warned that even when the battle have been to finish, meals costs wouldn’t instantly return to pre-war costs.

It is because components such because the rising value of gasoline, labor shortages and a disrupted provide chain will exacerbate present meals shortages, conserving costs excessive, Teng mentioned.

The World Financial institution has reported that Meals costs are anticipated to rise by about 20%. This yr earlier than easing in 2023.


Teng mentioned that whereas Singapore continues to be doing comparatively nicely in sustaining meals safety, its future is unknown.

“Singapore has underestimated the significance of agriculture and meals imports,” he mentioned. “Now we have now performed a full flip and are beginning to ramp up, however this wants time to repay,” he added.

Teng mentioned the “30 x 30” plan goals to provide Singapore a stage of self-production that’s enough to climate robust instances, however that won’t be sufficient to utterly exchange imports.

He added that it’s because the federal government determined to extend funding within the improvement of the nation’s GDP and common household earnings as an alternative of investing in agricultural actions.

“So long as you’ve the cash, so long as there isn’t any disruption within the provide chain, you’ll be able to all the time purchase meals someplace as a result of the amount we’d like (comparatively) will not be very excessive,” Teng mentioned.

He added that whereas it might be “technically and technologically” doable for Singapore to realize its aim, there have been nonetheless two points – costs and shopper attitudes in direction of the “new meals”.

Teng mentioned shoppers are taken with shopping for “pure meals” and will not settle for “new meals” — akin to lab-grown hen and various sources of protein — which is an enormous a part of the “30 x 30” aim.

However Rahut cautioned that attaining the goal could be “very tough” as a result of the deadline is approaching and Singapore nonetheless produces solely 10% of its meals wants.

He added that individuals would additionally nonetheless purchase imported meals merchandise in the event that they have been cheaper than native ones except the federal government might subsidize the merchandise.

What can Singapore do?

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

However Ting added that considered one of Singapore’s weaknesses is that regardless of making an attempt to diversify its imports from a basket of nations, it’s nonetheless too depending on only one or two nations.

For instance, Singapore imported 48% of her hen is from Brazil, and 34% from Malaysia In 2021, the Singapore Meals Company mentioned.

Teng additionally famous that a lot of the hen imported from Malaysia is reside hen, whereas the remainder of the hen imported from Brazil and different nations is frozen.

On the coverage stage, it’ll subsequently be vital to diversify imports for various kinds of merchandise, akin to discovering extra sources of reside hen to import from, Teng mentioned.

He added that the federal government might additionally encourage extra Singaporean firms to develop meals overseas and conclude agreements with different governments to make sure merchandise are usually not topic to export bans.

“The large image is to ensure that the manufacturing nations and the exporting nations have surpluses (of meals) and there are numerous methods we may help different nations try this,” Teng mentioned.

Equally, Rahut added that since Singapore is a technologically superior nation, it might take into account serving to different nations enhance their meals manufacturing programs.

“This won’t solely assist Singapore with meals worth stability and meals safety, but in addition world meals safety and meals costs,” mentioned Rahut.