Speech for Bill on Singapore Food Agency By Henry Kwek, Member of Parliament for Kebun Baru, Nee Soon GRC. For Parliament Sitting on 12 Feb 2019
I rise in support of the bill.
The creation of the SFA under MWER is the right move, and will enhance our ability to keep our food supply safe. I also note that the government’s recent success thus far of keep swine flu out of our food supply.
The creation of SFA also offers economic opportunities for our food manufacturing and supply industry. Let me outline these opportunities today.
Trust Deficit in Developing Asia’s Food Industry
First, let me start with trust. There is a trust deficit in food, especially in developing Asia. Most Asian customers do not fully trust the industry. In fact, where there are many international standards for food, both at a general and industry level, these standards are usually:
a. One, not well understood by the consumers.
b. Two. too narrowly defined. For example, the important Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) standard does not provide end-to-end assurance of food products.
c. Three, not well enforced. Many companies work hard to get a certification, but fail to keep up with these standards subsequently.
As Asia grows, consumers especially within developing Asia desires highquality food such as milk powder that is free from contamination.
Many well-to-do consumers would also want:
a. Organic food,
b. Food produced by using fair trade principles, which does away with worker exploitation, or
c. Food produced without adverse environmental impact, for example, environmentally sustainable palm oil.
Leading food manufacturing companies tries to position themselves as such. But there is widespread consumer distrust on:
a. Product label process,
b. Source of raw materials,
c. Whether the products are genuine.
At the same time, there is widespread trust in developing Asia and Middle East in the Singapore brand with regards to food. In fact, Singapore has one of the highest standards in Asia outside Japan.
Why do I say that?
Firstly, in selected areas such as fresh vegetables, processed food, poultry, Singapore has:
i. gone beyond certifying the food processing down within Singapore,
ii. to certify food products brought to Singapore.
iii. Singapore even sending officers overseas to accreditation the food supply chain throughout the world.
Secondly, Singapore has adopted food standards similar to that of the European Union.
Thirdly, we already certify food outside Singapore. A little known fact is that China’s Jilin province is collaborating with Singapore through the Jilin-Singapore Food Industry Park:
i. The Singapore government has set up a certification arm in Jilin.
ii. Over time, I was told, this certification arm will stamp the “Approved by Singapore” mark on those product, and these products will be eligible for import to Singapore.
“Trust Audit” as an Emerging Opportunity
Therefore, there are ample opportunities for Singapore-based companies to offer “trust audit” services, which can include:
i. Advisory services,
ii. Certification services,
iii. Assurance services, which includes regular internal or external audits,
iv. Forensic services.
In fact, I am already seen the emergence of this trend, and I met the PWC team in Singapore, which has started exploring “trust audit” for selected food manufacturing and supply companies in Asia, including for large Chinese State Own Enterprises (SOEs).
So how can we scale up these trust audit opportunities for Singapore? Let me share some ideas:
SFA can work hand-in-glove with Singapore Food Manufacturer’s Association and our professional services industries, so as to embed trust-audit into the Food Services Industry Transformation Map.
i. drive industry-wide research,
ii. set the relevant standards,
iii. recommend legislations,
iv. create the relevant eco-system, and
v. identify training requirements.
Successful business who passes through all the processes safely could get an “Approved by Singapore” mark.
Hopefully, over time, our “Approve by Singapore” mark can carry as much clout as US’ FDA with regards to drugs.
Doing so can also create revenue opportunity for the Singapore government, as SFA can offer certification services either out of Singapore, or onsite within major markets like China and India.
In conclusion, the creation of SFA keeps our food supply standards high. I also believe SFA can create more economic opportunities for Singapore and Singaporeans.
With that, I stand in support of the bill. Thank you.