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Speech by Minister-Of-State for Education Ms Gan Siow Huang at the Opening of the Joint Polytechnic-Institute of Technical Education Food Manufacturing Career Fair and the Launch of Singapore Polytechnic's Future Food Lab

Published Date: 17 April 2024 06:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Soh Wai Wah, Principal and CEO of Singapore Polytechnic,

Ms Mirte Gosker, Managing Director of The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific,

Colleagues from the Polytechnics & ITE,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

1. I am very glad to join you on this occasion, an important milestone for a more sustainable future for Singapore.

2. A big thank you to the polytechnics and ITE for organising the Joint Poly-ITE Food Manufacturing Career Fair every year, and to Singapore Polytechnic for hosting the event's fifth iteration this year. Congratulations to Singapore Polytechnic, too, on the launch of the Future Food Lab!

3. It is always a joy for me to witness these milestones:

  1. Partnerships between our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and the industry
  2. Plentiful opportunities for learning and to kick-start careers curated for our students
  3. And a mindset squarely set towards the future

4. Indeed, both events today revolve around the theme of the future. It's a thought-provoking and important one.

5. Food is a big part of our Singaporean lifestyle and, dare I say, core to Singapore's identity as a nation. We love our food, and we feel strongly about food rankings, from hawker stalls to Michelin-rated restaurants. But underlying this national past-time is a far more existential problem.

  1. Where do we get our food from?
  2. Will we have enough food for the future?
  3. What does it take to safeguard food security for Singapore in the long-term?

Singapore's Food Security

6. Singapore is land-scarce, and more than 90 percent of the food we eat is imported. This is great for Singaporeans, who enjoy having access to a variety of cuisines, but it is not so good for food security.

7. We saw from the pandemic that food supply chains can be easily and quickly disrupted. When crises erupt, countries can turn inwards and resort to protectionist policies. Concerned about feeding their own populations, they may choose to restrict food exports.

  1. We saw this when Malaysia banned chicken exports to Singapore in June 2022, stopping about a third of our chicken supply at a go.
  2. Elsewhere, too, we saw India banning rice exports and Indonesia banning palm oil exports, to alleviate domestic pressures.
  3. These are geopolitical decisions that will inevitably affect us. Often, governments make these decisions quickly, without forewarning, and we need to react just as quickly and make sure we have diversity in our food sources.

8. Climate change is another major threat to food production everywhere. Extreme weather—from heavy rain to heatwaves—can affect crops, livestock, and disrupt food supply. It affects our local farmers too, with changing weather conditions making it harder for our vegetables, eggs, and fish to grow.

9. Food security is thus an urgent existential threat for us. We must brace ourselves for more and more disruptions, whether man-made or natural. We will need to ramp up our food resilience, by diversifying our food import sources and climate-proofing our strategies.

10. A big part of the strategy is to increase our local food supply. We continue to strive towards our '30 by 30' goal: to produce 30 percent of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. This will be a bulwark for us, a pillar we can fall back on, in the face of greater uncertainties all around.

Launch of SP's Future Food Lab

11. Technology plays a big part in significantly elevating our food production capabilities. Already, Singapore has achieved significant ground in boosting our local food production capabilities over the years, many thanks to our IHLs and industry partners.

12. With our strong Research & Development (R&D) capabilities and an extensive network of cross-border partnerships, Singapore has become a hub for global food manufacturing brands. Many companies and start-ups have chosen Singapore as their base and testing ground for new products in Asia.

13. We can build on this base and do much more. The Government will continue to do our best to attract such investments in R&D, to scale up our capacity for manufacturing novel food products.

14. The launch of SP's Future Food Lab is very much in line with this national push. SP is Singapore's pioneer polytechnic and has been committed to innovation and sustainability in food production.

  1. The Future Food Lab is located within SP's Future Food Innovation District ecosystem, together with the existing Food Innovation and Resource Centre.
  2. It will bring students, faculty, and industry partners in the same space, to share ideas, collaborate and co-develop expertise innovative food solutions in Singapore.

15. It is a good initiative with the potential to benefit all:

  1. Students will learn in an authentic training environment,
  2. Staff have the opportunity to collaborate with the industry,
  3. And food-tech companies and start-ups have the avenue to expand their R&D efforts in Singapore.

16. Once again, congratulations to SP, and may the Future Food Lab bear much fruit!

Opening of Food Manufacturing Career Fair

17. Today also marks the start of the Joint Poly-ITE Food Manufacturing Career Fair. The fair this year is appropriately themed. To feed the future, we need, not just the right technologies and strategies; we also need the right talent.

18. Our people have always been, and always will be, our greatest asset. In this critical industry, we will need the best minds, the right hearts, and the relevant skills, to be a part of this ecosystem, to contribute to innovation and sustainability.

19. I am confident that the career fair will be eye-opening and showcase many exciting opportunities for our students. I look forward to seeing the fruit of these dividends down the road, when these students grow and mature as leaders and pioneers in the sector, doing their part to secure our food resilience, feeding many more generations to come.


20. I return to the question I asked earlier: what does it take to feed the future?

21. I believe the milestones we mark today will go a long way in building a more sustainable future.

22. Thank you.