Singapore needs to diversify its food sources so consumers can have more choices at a lower price, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in his latest blog post on Monday.
For example, the minister said Singapore is now looking at how it can increase its vegetable imports from Indonesia.
In the past ten years, Singapore’s vegetable imports from traditional sources like Australia have fallen, as Singapore begin to take in produce from other countries such as China.
Statistics from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore show that vegetables from China made up 29 per cent of the total market share in 2011, an increase of 8 per cent from 2002.
China’s growing status as a leading exporter has also reduced Indonesia’s share of the pie, with its volume of vegetables exported to Singapore falling from 32,000 tonnes in 2002 to 21,000 tonnes last year.
Malaysia, given its close geographical proximity, remains Singapore’s largest source of vegetables, with 43 per cent of market share.
Khaw said that pricing is one reason for this, especially since vegetables are consumed daily by many families here. He cited the price difference of potatoes from the two countries – Chinese potatoes are cheaper by about S$0.40 to S$0.65 per kilogramme – as an example.
Noting that this price differential is not small, Khaw added that China is the source of 35 per cent, or 16,540 tonnes, of potatoes sold in Singapore, compared to Indonesia's 9 per cent, or 4,349 tonnes.
But there is potential for Indonesia to increase its export to Singapore, Khaw noted, as he revealed the government is now working through the Indonesia-Singapore Agribusiness Working Group to see how this can be done.
One way, he said, is to study the cost structure of Indonesian agri-produce to identify bottlenecks in exporting from Indonesia.
Production sites, logistics routes and facilities for key Indonesian provinces could also be looked into.More promotion fairs with supermarket retailers could be organised to showcase Indonesian agri-produce.
Khaw said having diversified food sources will benefit consumers as this means they have a larger basket to choose from. “With added competition, prices for some vegetables will come down too.”