Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat emphasizes the need for global collaboration to address climate and geopolitical challenges in the agri-food sector at Singapore International Agri-Food Week Gala Dinner 2023.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Heng Swee Keat, delivered a speech at the Singapore International Agri-Food Week (SIAW) Gala Dinner on November 1, 2023. The event, attended by notable figures including Mr. Lim Boon Heng, Chairman of Temasek, Mrs. Iwona Piorko, EU Ambassador to Singapore, and Ms. Alexis Taylor, US Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, marked the culmination of a week-long conference involving over 7,000 agri-food stakeholders.

The speech highlighted the pressing concerns over global inflation, supply chain disruptions, and escalating climate and disease-related challenges. DPM Heng Swee Keat expressed particular worry about the impact of a potential “super El Nino” in 2024 and the imposition of export restrictions by countries like India, leading to a significant rise in food prices, especially staples like rice.

The Deputy Prime Minister underscored the need for collective action, stating that addressing agri-food issues is a matter of global stewardship. He emphasized two crucial prongs in building a more sustainable and climate-resilient agri-food sector: decarbonization and agri-food innovation.

In the realm of decarbonization, DPM Heng Swee Keat stressed the sector’s substantial contribution to global CO2 emissions and the critical role of Asia, which accounts for 42% of these emissions. He lauded initiatives like the Asia Food Challenge Report, which focus on deploying existing technologies to cut emissions immediately, leading to higher yields, lower costs, and improved profits for farmers and corporations.

Regarding agri-food innovation, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized Singapore’s commitment to sustainable and resource-efficient farming practices. He cited examples of local initiatives, such as community gardens and high-rise public housing estates turning into “urban kampungs,” which promote sustainable farming and community bonding.

Additionally, DPM Heng Swee Keat discussed Singapore’s “30 by 30” vision, aiming to sustainably produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030. He highlighted efforts to transform the Lim Chu Kang area into a hub for innovative, sustainable farming practices, with a focus on circular economy principles.

The speech concluded with a call for global collaboration and information sharing to create impact beyond Singapore. DPM Heng Swee Keat invited stakeholders to participate in Singapore’s agri-food ecosystem and praised the success of previous initiatives like The Liveability Challenge, which supported TeOra, a Singapore aquaculture company, in developing a vaccine to combat Scale Drop Disease Virus.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s address emphasized the importance of tackling agri-food challenges in conjunction with climate change and encouraged countries worldwide to work together in building a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future for all.