AVA's CEO delivering a welcome address at the food sourcing seminar in South Africa.
Uncovering New Possibilities:
South Africa Food Sourcing Mission
AVA's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ms Tan Poh Hong led a food sourcing mission to South Africa from 12 to 18 April 2015, with aims to establish the country as an alternative source of food supply. Jointly organised by AVA and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, the mission comprised 20 industry representatives from 14 trading companies across the seafood, meat, and fresh produce sectors.
While AVA currently does not allow meat exports from South Africa due to animal health issues, the mission demonstrated Singapore's interest in re-opening the South African market as a potential source of food supply, should our stringent requirements be met.
A key highlight of the trip was the food sourcing seminar, where both countries engaged in insightful exchanges of information. The Singapore delegation provided an overview of our requirements for food security, as well as disease control for pork and poultry. The South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries shared with us the animal disease situation in South Africa and shed light on their sanitary regulation system.
Site visits to seafood and meat establishments, as well as fruit orchards, provided us with a chance to assess South Africa's technology and production processes, as well as hygiene and food standards.
Networking sessions with the South African associations of meat and seafood industries were also appreciated by many of the participants. Such interactions allowed them to establish contacts with South African exporters and better gauge the export potential of these companies. Our traders have expressed keen interest in importing seafood products, meat products, fruits, and value-added items such as marinated ribs and yakitori.
A fruit importer in Singapore has already started to import containers of persimmons and pomegranates from a fruit orchard in South Africa. The first shipment—consisting of a container of persimmons and three containers of pomegranates—arrived in May 2015 and was warmly received.
Site visit to Lynca Meats, a pork establishment.
Yes to Local Produce: Lessons from Japan
As part of our ongoing efforts to boost demand for local produce in the domestic marketplace, AVA's Deputy CEO for Corporate & Technology Groups Dr Tan Lee Kim led a study trip to Japan from 17 to 22 May 2015.
Japan's government has been successful in fuelling growth and demand for its local agriculture through national campaigns, industry collaborations, and school education drives. Similar to Singapore, Japan is seeing trends of smaller households, increasing demand for ready-to-eat food, and popularity of eating out, all of which have an impact on the way citizens choose or consume their food. The trip also allowed us to learn how Japan leverages public education to spur support for local agriculture and fresh produce, and how we could adapt its strategies in Singapore's context.
Our delegation—comprising participants from Kok Fah Technology Farm, Kin Yan Agrotech, Marine Life Aquaculture, Seng Choon Farm, and Chew's Group, as well as AVA officers—visited Tokyo, Ibaraki, and Chiba. Government officers at these three prefectures shared information on their successful programmes for local produce. Also on the agenda were dialogues with industry organisations. These sessions sparked a wealth of ideas on how we can market and promote local produce back home.
AVA's Deputy CEO Dr Tan Lee Kim (front row, centre) with the Singapore delegation and officials from Ibaraki prefecture.
Value-added Farm Products and Services
The Japanese government provides support to local farmers through the "Local Production for Local Consumption" campaign, which involves participation at the national, prefecture, city, and town levels.
As part of this campaign, the "Sixth-Order Industrialisation" policy was rolled out to encourage local farmers to increase the value of their farm products. The policy encourages farmers to look beyond just primary produce. Incentives are given for them to explore post-harvest processing, as well as the provision of F&B and retail services.
Japanese farmers also organise themselves as groups or expand their operations through collaborations:
- The Green Lantern Secretariat, a voluntary group, keeps a record of food service outlets that use local produce. These outlets display green lanterns that carry the slogan "We use produce grown in Japan" within their premises. These lanterns are distributed by the Secretariat and allow consumers to easily identify such stores.
- Lawson, Japan's second-largest convenience store chain, demonstrates that retailers can also play a part in supporting local produce. It works closely with Japanese farms and establishments to sell produce and food products that are home grown.
- Radish Boya, a longstanding food delivery operator, works with local farmers to produce organic vegetables and additive-free foods for the higher-end consumer group. Moreover, customers receive a box filled with in-season fruit and vegetables along with the items they ordered.
- Farm stands are set up as a sales store for fresh produce directly supplied by the farms in the prefecture. Unlike farm stands of old, these modern ones adopt computerised systems to achieve greater efficiency. For example, the product packaging is tagged with a label to facilitate traceability of the source of the produce, and information on sold items is sent to the farmers' mobile phone instantly upon checkout. Such data enables farmers to track the sales and popularity of their produce. In turn, this facilitates the planning of farming activities.
A well-organised and popular farm stand.
School Education on Local Produce
Part of Japan's success in promoting local produce lies in its government's commitment to making food education a core component of the school curriculum. Most Japanese schools, from elementary to high school levels, provide meals made from locally farmed produce in the prefecture. These meals provide a good platform for teachers to educate students on the importance of food nutrition and a balanced diet, as well as the benefits of consuming local produce.
Participants from the industry enjoyed the eye-opening and enriching experience during the trip. Mr Dave Huang, Business Development Manager, Kok Fah Technology Farm Pte Ltd said: "The trip enabled us to see how government-led marketing efforts of local produce have resulted in a more sustainable farming industry."
"I was glad that I went for this trip. We had the chance to share and exchange ideas, and learned new concepts in marketing food produce," added Mr Woon Chang Chyang, General Manager, Kin Yan Agrotech Pte Ltd.
School meals prepared using local ingredients (left) and produce from Radish Boya, a food delivery operator (right).