Singapore can learn from Dutch when it comes to food security

Singapore is pushing for greater collaboration between industry, research institutions and the government in a move to improve the security and reliability of its food supplies. 

Minister of State for National Development, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, points to the Netherlands as a model to be emulated by Singapore.

Speaking at a food security conference, Dr Maliki says that the Netherlands may be relatively small but it's the world's second largest agricultural and food products exporter, behind the US. 

The Dutch have accomplished that by working with institutions of higher learning and research institutes. 

"Through the extensive use of technology and automation, the Dutch farmers are able to ramp up their production, even during the winter months." 

R&D, Dr Maliki says, has the potential to help improve food security standards by raising production levels, developing alternative sources of supplies and mitigating climate change.

This is especially relevant for Singapore, which imports over 90 per cent of its food. 

But by sourcing supplies from 160 countries, the risks are reduced. 

"On the one hand, it makes us reliant on imports from other countries for the vast majority of our food supply. On the other, it minimises the impact of any crisis on any single food source." 

Singapore's push for improved food security is necessary as challenges such as climate change and loss of farming land around the world could put a strain on global food supplies. 

That's according to food security expert, Professor Paul Teng. 

Professor Teng, who's from the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, adds that Singapore's use of research to improve food security will have domestic and regional benefits. 

"Singapore's food hinterland are our neighbouring countries. Whatever discoveries we make here can be applied in neighbouring countries. Because we're strong in R&D, it doesn't take a long time for some of these discoveries to be translated into products. By investing in technology, we help other countries and we help ourselves. In today's environment, a country's food security really depends on regional food security and global food security." 

-By Valerie Koh