What's the big deal about local produce and why support local farms?

Updated: Mar 29

Singapore is a small little island country with a mere 5.7 million people that consumes vast amounts of resources of which the one lifeline essential to keep us alive is the imported food we eat.

With our tropical climate and blasting hot humid weather, we have many challenges to be able to produce a wide variety of food to power a global city of people spoilt for choices in our gastronomical demands.

Almost everything is imported. From your common vegetables like spinach and cabbage to exotic Japanese fruits and the A5 Wagyu steak, everything can be found going through our busy ports right into our bellies.

But with Covid-19 ravaging through the world since 2019, we realized very quickly that supply chain reliabilities became well, not so reliable. A report by Reuters stated that nearly 90% of the top 5 butchers in America had covid cases, and Meat workers in Australia were struggling in isolation.

When labor is in isolation, all industries from farmers, processing plants, truck drivers, and even shipping operators experience severe bottlenecks in production and export. More so for us living in Singapore, since we import more than 90% of the food that fills our bellies.

Singapore is small, so land is limited and very expensive. Pre-covid, we were sought-after buyers so money could buy just about anything. A rich country like ours need not bother to farm its own food. But when the pandemic struck, it showed us clearly that when stocks are low, travel lanes are blocked, or worse, protectionist policies by foreign leadership also stopped the good coming and suddenly money can't seem to buy everything anymore.

So since 2020, large initiatives were supported by the Singapore government to build our farming industry. The Food Security Roadmap seeks to ensure more resilient food systems are in place to allow us to hit 30% of our local food production by 2030.

Local FUN Farm Facts

  • Number of farms 121

  • Leafy vegetable farms 77

  • Beansprout farms 6

  • Chicken and quail egg farms 5

  • Others 11

Challenges of the Industry

A difficult and often seen as an unglamorous career. In Singapore, farming is not considered the job of choice for most. It is laborious, hot, and strenuous, so much of the hard work is handed to foreign workers.

While this is slowly changing as younger, more idealistic individuals want to be part of this new farming community, it is work that can be heartbreaking when crop failures create unexpected setbacks from the steep learning curve to learning how to farm professionally.

*For those who are interested in starting your own farm, check out this industry guide by SFA to see how you can become part of the farming ecosystem.

Another issue is price. Local produce is usually priced slightly more expensive than imports, so farmers have to balance between growing produce that is selling cheaper than them and growing more specialized crops that can maintain sustainable profits. In April 2021, Singrow harvested their first strawberry crop grown here commercially in Singapore.

Why support local farmers?

Our own polls show that of the over 80% of locals interviewed, the majority feel that price is a determining factor of choice when making the the purchase. So there must be additional compelling differences in local produce to justify the price difference. So we came up with reasons on why you should support local, buy local.

Good governance and responsible laws

Through the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), expect stringent protocols required of our food producers to make sure that food produced is safe to eat.

Mothers like yourself expect to feed their families reliable produce because feeding the best to your family is a cultural expectation and a very important responsibility.

Fresh and delicious

Most imported foods are harvesting earlier than their optimum potential and also travel long distances to get to you.

As most chefs would agree, quality produce that is fresh is often the most crucial aspect to making good food. When food is fresh, it also means that your food retains the nutrients it holds to provide a healthy meal for you and your family.

Farming is also about providing a livelihood

Local farmers need support not just in business funding and infrastructure to start a difficult business, they need the right ecosystem to grow and to feed paying customers.

Not only does it provide jobs to local Singaporeans, that little bit more you are paying does more for you in the long term than you can imagine. It is now seen as important support crucial in building an industry that feeds us and secures our food supply needs

So before that next cheap alternative is available, we hope to have given you enough compelling reasons why supporting local produce is important for our local farms to exist.

Farmers are fast becoming local heroes that toil our lands to feed our people. So are you supporting local yet?