Singapore Food Crisis

Singapore has been a perfect shower of blessings. Our geographical position and deep waters allowed us to become the gateway of continents.  We are positioned strategically in a location such that we are shielded from rough storms, destructive wind and water. Being just above fault lines of the tectonic plates, we are seemingly immune to any significant threat of the earthquakes that our Southern neighbour faces regularly. In addition, with good governance for nearly half a century, Singaporeans today have so much confidence for the future. 

We may have become outrageously optimistic. These days most of us concentrate on building our careers and acquiring properties. The government has taken care of us so well that we need only to focus on these and nothing else. In rWe expect the authorities to keep the country as safe as yesterday, maintain good ties with our neighbours so that we will never need to take arms. Keeping us well fed, is a basic expectation we have on our government.

I mean, who actually worry about food crisis in Singapore? We have been taking things for granted that there will be food on the table as long as we have the money to pay for it. Over time, it has became a negative national mentality such that even our leaders appear to slacken over the urgency of solving our food issues. What food issues, you might ask? The same issues as we have for water, my friends - that our government is still proactive and show a sense of urgency in addressing our water supply for the future.

Likewise, as we don't have enough water to sustain our population needs, we don't have enough food. During the 1960s, we had some 20,000 farms occupying over 14,000 hectares of land. Fast forward to present, we hardly produce anything except for some farming activities in small pockets of our land. While it is hard to argue that land is so scarce in Singapore that we have no choice but to rezone agricultural land for industrial and commercial purposes, we seem to forget to address the critical food shortage issues that followed.  AVA did not deny this. An extract from their website:

Much of our supply of fresh food is derived from a few major sources. Any disruption in supply from such sources can have severe impact on our food supply. Efforts to raise levels of self-sufficiency will be limited by the scarcity of agricultural land. It is thus critical to continually identify new sources of safe and quality food to prevent over-dependence on a few sources. This may involve facilitating overseas investments in food production, the transfer of farming technology and the extension of laboratory services to the region.

While we took clear initiatives to solve our water shortage issues such as investing in desalination technologies (Newater) and building of the Marina Barrage to increase our water catchment area by more than 15%, there is hardly any taken to address our chronic food shortage. In the 2008 food crisis, it was revealed that our only strategy was stocking up 6 months supply of rice and keep our fingers crossed. What crisis? Some of us may ask. Many of us probably didn't even know there was a food crisis. Like I mentioned earlier, most of us are in the state of apathy to care about issues closely related to our lives and choose to leave them at the hands our others - that "Somebody will solve the problem" mantra. Nothing's wrong with that. To each his own on how to live one's life. At the very least, I thought we should at least check if that somebody is really solving the problem. Just in case.

Is there a looming food crisis or am I over-reacting? The threat of an upcoming food crisis is very real. Just last month in July, continental United States just experienced their hottest month on record, beating the devastating Dust Bowl summer of 1936, this led to a drought expected to be the worst since 1956. Food production yield is going to be the smallest in years. Such harvesting problems are not limited to the US but on a global scale. Cocoa is set to be under supplied in just 2 years as large numbers of Cocoa farmers fled their farms in Ivory Coast. For the record, Ivory Coast supplies 40% of the world cocoa demand. Apart from global adverse weather conditions, political unrest in food producing countries, there are other factors that Mother Nature challenge farmers across the world as such disease and infertility. Economic food models, monopolisation of transnational agribusiness interests that place economic interests above the good of the community, hoarding of food and the speculation of food futures did not help matters.

Instead of exposing ourselves naked at the mercy of the impending full blown food crisis, what have our government done to protect Singaporeans from it? 

Mr PM came out late last month to warn the public of rising food prices and asked Singaporeans to be prepared. What could we have done better here than offering nothing but a warning to the public? From the 1980s when most of our agricultural land made way for industralisation, we had 3 decades to come out with measures to protect ourselves from the food crisis we would have comfortably deal with today. Our investment juggernaut Temasek Holdings, chose to buy toy trains and buses instead of securing sustainable food producing initiatives for our national interests. Other than buying up shares of food producing companies, we could send at least send a battalion of Singaporean farmers overseas, provide them with farm land lease assistance and secure food supply contracts in a win-win arrangement. Oh wait, do we still have Singaporeans who know how to farm?


  1. instead of making blanket statement such as this: "there is hardly any taken to address our chronic food shortage.", simple googling will show you these:

    Thought for Food: Singapore’s Strategy

    Singapore Looks to China for Food Security

    if you care to do a little bit more research, i'm sure you will find more efforts taken by the Government in this aspect.


    1. I asked, why hasn't the government secured our food security for the past 3 decades.

      You showed me google results showing Singapore's strategy dated 2009-2011. If anything, you just reinforced my question, if you care to read a little bit more into what I was trying to say.

  2. [Fears of a new global food crisis]

  3. Excellent article. Someone said before to overcome any food crisis is to increase our GDP growth and make more money. With more money we can buy food from any part of the world cuz we can afford to buy high prices for imported food. I think it's a stupid stmt! Many small countries are making efforts to secure their food supply overseas. We can only talk of recently making in North-east China. Can we only depend one place ie China. Do t forget we ever been played out by them in Suzhou. And of all places, our govt to the world's most populous country to invest on long term food venture! It's not wise right? They may just hijack it to feed their people first. Are you going to fight them if it ever happens? In short, this govt has failed in his duty to Singapore to secure more food supply sites overseas. They only keen on making more and more money. Everything is money and instant profits to them. Who cares about our country's long term food solution?

  4. how does the current food prices compared between perth/down under and S'pore ?

  5. With climate change leading to a more frequent occurrence of natural disasters like droughts and floods, food security issues will become more pressing in the future. Singapore has started to focus more attention on these issues lately, but more can still be done. In fact, it will be interesting to see if Japanese urban farms like these can be replicated in Singapore:

  6. Re we've had "good governance for nearly Half A Century". Are you feeling alright?

    Right now, we have problems with housing, transport, health facilities, population, cost of living etc. A result especially of the governance of the last 25 years.

    The cultivation of the selfish, money-minded, academic grades obsessed attitudes of Singaporeans go further back.

    Only GDP figures have been good, if you are ok with huge surges and drops. However, economists believe a steady, measured pace is what should be the case.

  7. Sustainability problems on a global scale and questions are still skewed towards dependency on governments for everything. Or every problem. Ponzi scheme participants got their vengeance with the conviction of Ponzi but recall that the judge sentencing blamed the all the plaintiffs as well.

    Well, at least immigration helps to solve that, starting from the individual. Hope you enjoy your first crops in 6 months time. This time of the year = frost break so here's prosperity to your first seeds.

  8. This is an insightful piece.
    Other than outbreak of deadly disease,
    food shortage is a very real threat that
    our Rulers must be mindful of. And it needs
    not be due to unfriendly acts, natural disaster
    would be the most likely causes.


  9. Well, with the world still in denial over climate change, food is going to be a problem after water. If natural disasters stuck at food producing countries around the world, we are going to be in problem. You are right to say that we have done well in solving our water supply issue. If you didn't write about this, I will have miss this problem too.

    I do remember the food crisis years ago and I'm sure Singaporeans do. Afterall, there was a spark of panic buying in rice after the floods in thailand as well as rising prices but being the typical Singaporeans, our memories are quite short term and our mindset only looked for short term rewards, so all of it had been forgotten until the next crisis happen.


  10. Thanks for the great article!

    Imagine if the entire old KTM rail corridor is used for farming, we do have a reasonably big "farmland"for some percentage of food security, provided the influx of numbers of "mouths-to-be-fed" is fixed or reduced drastically.The length is about 25km and width varies from 5m to 175m. Capture the solar energy here will provide for the farm. Need to store rainwater for the plants though or else will compete with human "consumption"