Singapore ramps up rooftop farming plans as virus upends supply chains

Reuters

Posted at Apr 08 2020 05:14 PM

Comcrop CEO Peter Barber shows vegetable seedlings at his rooftop hydroponics farm at an industrial estate in Singapore, May 17, 2019. Edgar Su, Reuters/File

SINGAPORE - Singapore on Wednesday announced new measures to accelerate local food production as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts global supply chains, including a plan to turn car park rooftops in public housing estates into urban farms.

The densely populated city-state produces only about 10 percent of its food needs but has plans to increase that as climate change and population growth threaten global food supplies.

Around the world, restrictions on population movement because of the coronavirus outbreak are wreaking havoc on farming and food supply chains and raising concern of widespread shortages and price increases.

"The current COVID-19 situation underscores the importance of local food production, as part of Singapore's strategies to ensure food security," authorities said in a statement. "Local food production mitigates our reliance on imports, and provides buffer in the event of food supply disruptions."

Authorities have repeatedly assured locals that the city-state has sufficient food supplies, amid bouts of panic buying that have gripped the island during the outbreak.

Farmers and the government have been looking at ways to overcome the shortage of land in Singapore, where only 1 percent of its 724 sq km (280 sq miles) is devoted to agriculture and production costs are higher than the rest of Southeast Asia.

In response to the outbreak, authorities aim to speed up local production over the next 6 months to 2 years.

This includes providing a S$30 million ($21 million) grant to support production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish in the shortest time possible, and identifying alternative farming spaces, such as industrial areas and vacant sites.

As part of that project, the Singapore food agency will launch a tender for rooftop farms on public housing car parks for urban farming starting next month, authorities said.

($1 = 1.4280 Singapore dollars)