Singapore is putting up SGD30m (US$21m) to speed up local food production as it seeks to reduce its reliance on imports and guard the city-state against external shocks.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is providing the funds through a grant – to be launched mid-April – for agri-food businesses to foster the further development of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish, foods already produced locally but that need bolstering up to support Singapore’s ambitions.

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And vertical farming, or urban farming as it is also known – where select fresh products such as vegetables can be grown under controlled methods without the need for soil or pesticides or land mass – is set to get a further boost.

The SFA said it will launch a tender to use rooftop spaces on the car parks of residential housing – government-owned Housing Development Board accommodation occupied by the majority of Singaporeans – from May this year. 

Given its limited land for agriculture, Singapore has been an early adopter of urban farming systems as it aims to meet 30% of its nutritional food needs locally by 2030.

Government agencies will work together to identify alternative farming spaces, such as industrial spaces and vacant sites that can be “tapped to facilitate the ramping up of local food production” over the next six months to two years, the SFA said, adding that the arrival of Covid-19 makes developments even more important.

Agri-food companies operating in the three stated food categories will be invited to submit proposals to “grow more and grow faster”, SFA said.  If awarded a grant, those same firms can use the funds as an upfront investment to “accelerate their farms’ expansion in production capacity within the next six to 24 months”. 

Masagos Zulkifli, the minister for the environment and water resources, said: “Our three strategies of diversifying food imports, growing locally and growing overseas have served us well in ensuring Singapore’s food security, even during times of supply disruption. 

“We will continue to work closely with the industry to strengthen the capabilities of local food production. Demand from consumers will spur our farmers to become more productive, and allow them to reap the benefits of economies of scale. This in turn will bolster our food security, and create good jobs for our people.”

Last year, Singapore allocated SGD144m to help foster food-related innovation including lab-grown meat. Shiok Meats is one such firm, which is aiming to produce its first products based on shrimp.