Opening Remarks by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at Session to Discuss the Recommendations of the Citizens’ Workgroup to increase demand for local produce, on 6 February 2021, at Edible Garden City
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to meet all of you again. I am glad that you could join us at Edible Garden City, or EGC, today. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we were unable to organise learning journeys to the farms during the Workgroup sessions. However, I hope all of you will enjoy the briefing and tour of EGC, our very own urban farm in the heart of Singapore.
Deepening Engagements with our Citizens
2 The Citizens’ Workgroup is a relatively new citizen engagement initiative which MSE started in 2019. It is different from our past engagement initiatives because it is a citizen-led initiative, with participants from diverse backgrounds working together over an extended period, to co-create solutions to complex issues.
3 This initiative is part of our efforts to provide more partnership opportunities for Singaporeans, under the Singapore Together movement launched by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in 2019. This approach of partnering Singaporeans, and providing platforms for Singaporeans to partner one another, enables us to harness the diverse talents and strengths of Singaporeans to shape and act on our shared future together. This is even more important now, as we tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, the crisis of our generation. We need to rally together, apply our wits and will, to help Singapore emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
4 This Citizens’ Workgroup has been a learning journey for us, as much as it has been for you. Thank you for your patience and commitment to this Workgroup, even as we had to adapt our sessions along the way in view of the safe distancing measures. We will continue to explore innovative ways to meaningfully engage with citizens on a broad variety of issues, whether physically or digitally.
Careful Deliberation of Recommendations
5 The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) have carefully reviewed the six proposals you submitted since we last met. We have identified some common themes from the proposals. They are centred around: (a) education and building awareness; (b) product design; (c) user experience; and (d) demand aggregation.
6 We had initially planned to hold this response session in January 2021. However, we quickly realised during our review that many of your recommendations would require the support of our agri-food industry partners, and we wanted to take more time for a thorough review with the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation Limited (SAFEF), to obtain industry insights on the implementation of your recommendations.
7 The additional discussions allowed us to push the boundaries on what we can support. We have identified two pilot projects for implementation. We will also explore two other proposals for implementation on a limited scale, while we gauge their long-term viability and market demand. Let me share more on the rationale for choosing the first two pilot projects for implementation before SFA presents our response.
8 We agree that the two pilot projects identified have the potential to raise awareness and promote demand for local produce for their target audience and could be sustained over the long term by SFA with the Workgroup. The first pilot project, LoveSGMums Meal, is specially designed to reach new mums during one of the most important milestones in their lives when new habits are being formed. If we can successfully work with hospitals and caterers to introduce local produce in new mothers’ confinement meals and show them the benefits of eating local, more households may choose local produce in the long run.
9 The second pilot project aims to make the identification of local produce easier in wet markets. The SFA launched a logo featuring the SG brand mark last year to make it easier for consumers to identify local produce. This pilot for the wet markets can make use of the logo, putting it on banners and “lollipop” signs to prominently showcase the local produce. You may have heard of the opening of a new FairPrice supermarket in Parkway Parade. The supermarket is the first in Singapore to dedicate fixed sections for local produce such as fish, eggs, vegetables and mushrooms.
Our wet markets are also spaces where many Singaporeans and residents purchase their fresh produce and daily necessities. If we can successfully highlight our local produce in one or two wet markets with the attractive visuals and attract patrons to buy them, think of the impact on the demand for local produce if we were to implement them to over 80 wet markets islandwide.
3P Partnership Approach
10 Last year, we moved quickly to accelerate our local food production, setting up the “30x30 Express” grant call. Close to $40 million was awarded to support the growth of local agri-food enterprises and ramp up the local production of eggs, fish and vegetables within six to 24 months. We also utilised alternative spaces by tendering out nine carpark rooftops totalling about 22,000 square metres for commercial farming. These rooftop sites have the potential to collectively produce around 1,600 tonnes of vegetables annually, which is around 2 per cent of what we consume as a country. This may not seem a lot, but every bit counts.
11 Nevertheless, even as MSE and SFA work with the industry to increase our local food supply, we recognise that the growth of a vibrant and commercially viable agri-food sector is only possible if the increase in supply is met by a corresponding increase in demand.
12 We need to do more to convince consumers to consider local produce. The recommendations made by the Citizens’ Workgroup, which bring out the advantages of purchasing local, are a good start. They will form part of our collective efforts to increase demand for local produce and bring us closer to our 30 by 30 goal.
13 This is why we are excited to embark on this next phase with you, to realise your ideas through pilot projects. We will adopt a People, Private and Public (or 3P) partnership approach, and hope to continue to involve you as we work with our industry partners on the projects to increase demand for our local produce.
14 Let me conclude. We look forward to working with you to implement your ideas. Even if you are not able to continue participating, we would like to stay in touch with you, to provide you with regular updates on the MSE family’s initiatives, and invite you to our events. I hope you found this process as meaningful as we did, and that you will cherish the friendships and community that you have forged through this Workgroup.