Monday, December 6, 2010

Growing trend of eating local produce


Dec 7, 2010

Growing trend of eating local produce

Sales up as more buyers trust farmers here; some keen to grow own food


  • COLD STORAGE: Sale of locally farmed fish, eggs and veggies up 30% over the past three years.

  • FAIRPRICE: Demand for local fish and veggies up by about 40%.

  • SHENG SIONG: Sales of local veggies and eggs up by 5% to 10% over the past year.

  • Ms Crane, who founded Locavore Singapore to encourage people to eat local produce, now sells an average of 50 meals a day at her restaurant Dapao. This is up from 20 meals a day when her restaurant serving home-grown food first opened early last month. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

    RECENT food contamination scares have brought Singaporeans' taste buds closer to home as locavorism - a trend in eating locally produced food - takes off here.

    At supermarkets, sales of local produce - mostly vegetables, eggs and fish - have gone up by as much as 40 per cent over the past three years.

    At Cold Storage, the sale of locally farmed fish, eggs and vegetables has increased 30 per cent in that period.

    At FairPrice, demand for local fish and vegetables has increased by about 40 per cent in the past three years.

    And sales of local vegetables and eggs at Sheng Siong have increased by 5 per cent to 10 per cent over the past year.

    Being able to trace the source of the produce is a big factor fuelling the trend, said experts.

    'Talk to anyone, the trust in local produce is increasing in tandem with doubts over imported food,' said senior lecturer Sarah Lim from Singapore Polytechnic's business school.

    The episode involving melamine-tainted milk powder from China, which triggered product recalls worldwide in 2008, still resonates among consumers here, she pointed out.

    'People trust local farmers now. They are starting to question and care about where their food comes from.'

    Mr Allan Tan, former president of the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association, said consumers are also starting to realise that it is a win-win situation.

    'When people buy directly from local farmers, their dollars stay within the local community and strengthen it.

    'It also helps farmers have an income and continue to keep their farms,' he said. 'With more education, maybe more people will think that way and in the long run, Singapore will be more self-reliant when it comes to food.'

    Figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) show that the 54 vegetable farms here harvested 19,584 tonnes of vegetables last year, up from 18,967 tonnes from 65 farms in 2008.

    As for fish, 5,689 tonnes were produced locally last year, up from 5,141 tonnes in 2008.

    For eggs, demand has remained relatively stable. Last year, the five farms here produced 333 million eggs, a dip from 338 million in 2008.

    AVA said all produce from local vegetable and chicken farms is for local consumption while a portion of produce from the fish farms is exported.

    Currently, the local production of fish, eggs and leafy vegetables make up 4 per cent, 23 per cent and 7 per cent respectively of total local consumption.

    AVA hopes to strengthen Singapore's food resilience by raising local production of fish to 15 per cent, eggs to 30 per cent, and leafy vegetables to 10 per cent of consumption here. The Republic imports 90 per cent of the food consumed here.

    Meanwhile, there are other signs pointing to the fact that the locavore movement - a term coined by an American food writer in 2005 - is catching on here.

    The group Locavore Singapore, which was founded in May, already has 200 members. Its founder Christina Crane, 39, owner of Dapao - a restaurant in Amoy Street that serves home-grown food - has seen business expand.

    She sells an average of 50 meals a day now, up from 20 meals a day when she first opened early last month.

    More people are also interested in farming their own food.

    Mr Tay Lai Hock, founder of Ground-Up Initiative, a non-profit organisation that aims to get people to reconnect with land, has attracted 1,000 volunteers since April. These volunteers tend herbs, vegetables and fruit trees at the Bottle Tree Park in Yishun.

    The National Parks Board, which runs the Community in Bloom programme to promote gardening projects, now has 390 community gardens under its belt - up from 100 in 2005 when the project was first launched.

    Consumers like Miss Olivia Choong started going local about two years ago.

    'I don't think it's good to always buy imported food. Eating local food reduces my carbon footprint,' said the 31-year -old, who eats only local vegetables and rears her own egg-laying hens at home.

    'We have a lot of good produce here and I trust our farmers.'

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    Mr Chang C.L.


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