Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at Meat Traders Association’s 22nd Anniversary Dinner on 22 September 2023
Mr Alvin Kwek, President of the Meat Traders Association Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good evening to all. It is my pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate the 22nd Anniversary of the Meat Traders Association (MTA).
2 When I stood before you last year, I spoke about the significance of enhancing our food security to insure us against events that can break our supply chain.
3 While the days of sealing off our borders and closing our fishery port because of the COVID-19 pandemic are thankfully behind us, we must continue to keep our food supply resilient amidst swirling uncertainties.
4 For instance, one of the developments from the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict is the recent collapse of the Black Sea grain deal. Before the war, Ukraine was one of the key exporters of agricultural commodities. But the invasion caused disruptions to the export of grains from Ukraine, causing hardship to countries in that region which depended on Ukraine. Eventually, the UN brokered the Black Sea grain deal in July last year, allowing the export of grains in exchange for export of Russian fertilisers. With the collapse of the deal recently, concerns are rising once again about disruptions to global food supplies. While we do not import much grain from Ukraine, this could still have knock-on effects on us. Because the grains are used as animal feed, or plant oil in food manufacturing, and the unavailability of the Ukraine source will cause the price of wheat to rise, and in turn lead to increase in prices of meat and food items in Singapore.
5 Aside from the Russia-Ukraine war, the world must also grapple with the existential threats that come from the impacts of climate change. Some regions find themselves dealing with deadly floods. Others are faced with high temperatures, intense heat, and prolonged droughts.
6 In response to these challenges, countries around the world are placing greater emphasis on sustainable agriculture practices and environmental stewardship, including avoidance of land clearing. Agricultural companies are increasingly being placed under the spotlight for their agricultural practices. Consumers are also placing a greater emphasis on the environmental impact of their food choices. To stay relevant and competitive, businesses need to incorporate sustainability into their supply chains, and source from environmentally responsible suppliers. This could mean choosing farms or suppliers that practise good animal husbandry practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Or farms that practice responsible land clearing practices that reduces loss of carbon sink and biodiversity.
7 Just as Singapore has diversified our water sources and invested in infrastructure so that our taps do not run dry, so too must we remember to seek out solutions to enhance our food security.
Diversifying Our Sources
8 Source diversification remains a cornerstone of our food security strategy. We experienced disruptions to chicken and pork supplies, due to the Malaysia chicken export ban in 2022, and the African Swine Fever incursion in Indonesia earlier this year. Our businesses could from time to time meet with unforeseen operational incidents. For instance, a local pig abattoir was recently closed for a short period, causing delays to the processing of meat supply. The lesson that we learn from these instances is that we must have contingency plans and not allow ourselves to be dependent on a single source or supplier of food.
9 For food importers, diversification means not being overly reliant on a few suppliers. It also makes good business sense. You mitigate disruption risk to your business by setting up continuity plans.
10 Singapore has made significant stride in diversifying our food security. We now import from over 180 sources, up from 172 in 2019. While it is a modest increase, every effort counts. And we have all our partners like you, to thank.
MTA’s Contribution to Food Security
11 MTA plays a key role in ensuring our food security. Over the years, you and your members have forged partnerships both locally and internationally, contributing to a well-diversified and steady supply of meat in Singapore. During the Malaysian chicken export ban last year, the Government worked closely with industry partners and trade associations such as MTA and the Poultry Merchants Association to swiftly ramp up our alternative supplies of chicken. Our importers worked with other source countries, such as Thailand, Australia, Argentina, and Indonesia to ensure alternative sources of chicken. Likewise, thanks to the swift response and support from the industry, our supply of pork remained stable through importers’ activation of alternative sources, which included live pigs from Sarawak, Malaysia as well as chilled and frozen pork from countries such as Australia, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand.
12 I thank MTA for working closely with our SFA and Enterprise Singapore to keep our food supply resilient.
13 Our journey towards a more robust and resilient future is far from over.
14 To ensure the security of our nation’s food supply, I encourage MTA to remain steadfast in your commitment to diversify and maintain strong partnership with the Government.
15 I wish MTA and all your members continued success as you navigate the path ahead. Let us keep our spirits high, continue to innovate, and build a resilient and diversified food sector for the benefit of Singapore and all Singaporeans.
16 Finally, I would like to congratulate Mr. Alvin Kwek for being conferred the Public Service Medal in 2023.
17 Thank you, and here’s to another year of progress and collaboration.