May 14, 2008

How the World Feeds Singapore

The above illustration is so exact and representative about how people living in this small dynamic island (including me and wife at the moment) depend heavily on food import from all over the world.

Uprising price of food commodity especially rice (nearly 30-40%) that has happened for more than three months are really an eye opener that Thailand, Vietnam, and India can threat us with famine. Touch wood it will not happen, insya Allah. Currently left only with Thailand as major exporter here with price soaring USD 1000++/ton. When I order nasi ayam only two choices left: less rice or pay extra 50c [sigh]. Same situation for roti prata stall that jacks up their price for 20-30c for irrelevant fluor or egg price rise. Nowadays more people starts taking lots of hassle to cross over to Johor Baharu to buy staple again especially for half-price cooking oil, rice, sugar, and fluor.

Prices of food ranging from rice to chicken have soared in recent months, due to a various unrelated factors around the world such as rising demand from emerging economies like China and India, while supply is dwindling at the same time due to bad weather and farmers switching to biofuel crops (fuel vs food battle), high oil prices (USD 124 per barrel as this blog is uploaded) are contributing to higher cultivation and distribution costs for food, and last but unpopular reason is speculative trading by commodity trader.

According to Annual Report 2006/7 AVA there are about 64 active farms in Singapore for light vegetables like mushroom, bean sprouts, etc. The size of the land is only 111 hectares (from 650 square km Singapore land in total). Surprisingly enough, from that table, Singapore has more farms for orchids (83 farms, 303 hectares) and aquarium fish breeding (87 farms, 167.2 hectares).

Both orchids and aquarium fish (you name it, tropical or marine or ornamental species) are niche lucrative markets that can create multi-million dollar revenue a year !
Singapore is a major exporter of cut orchids and has a 15% share of the world market. In 2004, the orchid and ornamental plant industry exported some S$56 million worth of cut orchids and ornamental plants (including aquatic plants). In fishery business, Singapore exports nearly USD 80-90 million annually (the real figure can be more!) in aquarium fish species and for Southeast Asia as a whole, a trade of between US$300-400 million in total. Learn more about Qian Hu, the first tropical fish breeder that listed in Singapore stock market (Sesdaq, SGX) on their site.

So we can learn one lesson here: if we only have small piece of land then optimise it with growing or breeding million-US-dollar-portfolio of species. Do not waste your time cultivating the land with cheap commodity crops that third-world-country would be very happy supplying them with marginal price round the clock :-)

Original article was appeared on My Paper April 21st 2008 edition written by Andrea Soh.
Main resource can be read here !

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