There's not very far you can go in Singapore these days without some talk of the rising prices of commodities, especially food. From the taxi driver complaining that his lor mee now costs 50 cents more to shoppers at wet markets and supermarkets who feel they are getting very much less for their dollars. Everybody is talking about inflation.
Except those who eat organic food, it seems. Wholesalers and retailers of organic food say they are still doing brisk business in Singapore. The rising costs of normal produce and groceries and the wider range of organics on offer, has in fact, made the organic option quite attractive to consumers, they said.
Ms Michelle Tan, spokesman for Ban Choon Marketing, one of the largest importers of organic food and products in Singapore, said people were spending so much more on normal food, that they were now considering the value-added option of going organic. She added: 'Now people don't mind spending a little more on organic food as it is seen as much better for their health.'
Just five years ago, almost no one ate organic food here. These days Ban Choon has a team whose job is to source organic produce, meat and other products such as soups and teas. Last year, it brought in over 100 tonnes of organic vegetables and fruit for the Singapore market, compared with none five years ago and small shipments over the last four years.
Last year, a survey by the Nielsen company also showed that over four in 10 Singaporeans buy organic fruits and vegetables some of the time, with 12 per cent buying them regularly. Cheaper organic options are also becoming more readily available. Zenxin Agri-Organic food, a wholesale and retail haven of all things organic, has partnered Cold Storage to launch a house brand of organic food called First Choice Organic.
This new house brand will be more affordable than other brands. For instance, all organic greens will be priced at around $2 to $3 a packet instead of the $4 to $5 price tag that organic greens usually come with.
The director of Zenxin, Mr Tai Seng Yee, who supplies major supermarkets islandwide, claims that demand for organic produce from his shop has almost doubled since March last year, when he opened his first shop in Singapore. However, he could not provide figures on how many tonnes of fruits and vegetable he sells.
Stocked with over 50 types of vegetables and fruit, his shop at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre offers one of the widest selections of organic vegetables and fruit here.
Zenxin's vegetables come from Mr Tai's organic farms in Johor Baru and Cameron Highlands. This is as close as Singaporeans can come to eating locally sourced, pesticide-free food.
In the last one year, Zenxin's customer base has grown to about 3,000. MrTai said that 70 per cent of these customers are regulars who shop there weekly.
Two of Mr Tai's farms have been certified organic by Australia's leading organic certifier, The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia.
Also, customers can taste fresh fruit and produce before they buy. The most popular items are its kailan ($2.20), xiao bai cai ($1.50) and English spinach ($2.40), he said.
A regular shopper at Zenxin, businesswoman Ms Sarah Teo, who is in her early 30s, said she found its prices 'ultra reasonable'.
Organic food and product enthusiasts can also meet at the newly launched eco-ethical outdoor market at Dempsey Road, organised by L'Organic every third Saturday of the month.
Mind Your Body has compiled a directory of shops islandwide which stock organic products and or fresh organic produce. Do write and tell us about your favourite outlet in case we've left any out.
Biogenic International, 147B Telok Ayer Street, tel: 6226-2621. Offers fresh organic vegetables, cooked meals and fresh organic fruits juices.
Brilliant, 44 Riverside Drive, tel: 6384-4421. Organic vegetables and fruit at reasonable prices.
Brown Rice Paradise, 163 Tanglin Road, 03-15 Tanglin Mall, tel: 6738-1121, www.mybrp.com.sg/. A mini supermart that is Singapore's oldest and most complete organic shopping experience, offers many types of grains and cereals.
Bollywood Veggies, 100 Neo Tiew Road, tel: 6898-500, www.bollywoodveggies.com/. Buy organic veggies and fruit grown on this farm and dine on their home-cooked meals.
Bunalun, 43 Jalan Merah Saga, 01-70 Chip Bee Gardens, tel: 6472-0870. Also at 391 Orchard Road, B2-01-3A Ngee Ann City, tel: 6735-2337, http://www.bunalun.com/. Organic oils, freshly made dips, certified spices and preserves are the specialties here.
Camu Camu Nature House, Block 211, Hougang Street 21, 01-307, tel: 6287-0267. Apart from reasonable pricing, owner Michael Low adds value with tips on how to go organic for less.
Canmark Supermarket, Block 166, Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, 01-256/258, tel: 6569-7783. Offers a selection of fresh organic produce and packed products.
Choice Organic, Lorong Mambong, 01-35 Holland Village Centre, tel: 6763-2877. Organic groceries from beans and oil, to pasta and noodles.
Chuan Soon Organic, Block 104, Yishun Ring Road, 01-13, tel: 6758-8366
Eat Organic, 619H Bukit Timah Road, tel: 6219-7156, http://www.eat-organic.com.sg/. Complete organic shopping experience from fresh produce to groceries and cleaning agents.
Fave, The Dried Fruits & Nuts People, 16, New Industrial Road, 01-02 Hudson TechnoCentre, tel: 6383-2094; http://www.fave.com.sg/. You can buy organic dried fruits and nuts here in bulk as well as stock up on grains and teas.
Four Seasons Organic Market, B2-07 Great World City, Kim Seng Promenade, tel: 6836-1855. Lots of fresh food with a good choice of organic eggs, dairy products, meat and fish.
Ghim Moh Market Stall, Ghim Moh Wet Market. Reasonably priced organic veggies and fruit.
Go Organic International, Turf City, 200 Turf Club Road, tel: 6469-1687. Offers tools to set up a farm-in-a-box, for people who want to grow their own organic herbs and plants.
Greencircle Eco-farm, 41 Neo Tiew Road, tel: 6861-9286. Locally grown organic produce at reasonable prices. Also offers delivery of a weekly organic box.
Kampung Senang, Block 106, Aljunied Crescent, 01-205, tel: 6749-8509. Help and support for cancer patients wanting to go organic.
Kang Bao Lek Veg Centre, Block 406, Tampines Street 41, 01-25, tel: 6787 9311. Reasonably priced organic veggies and fruit.
Li Xiang Market, Bedok South 01-517/519. Selection of organic greens like chye sim and xiao bai cai.
L'Organic, Block 18A, Dempsey Road, tel: 6474-7142, http://www.lorganic.sg/. Certified organic produce from Australian and French farms and a large selection of pasta, oils and condiments.
Living Greens, 325 Beach Road, tel: 6396-5523. Organic-vegan restaurant also sells brown rice, oat milk powders and dry goods like beans and noodles.
Love For Earth, 11 Holland Road Shopping Centre, tel: 6469-7865. Has organic clothing and food for babies and toddlers. Also sells skin care products.
Nature's Glory, 315 Outram Road, 11-03 Tan Boon Liat Building, tel: 6227-1318. Cold pressed oils, organic shoyu sauce and products to support a macrobiotic diet.
Oasis Organic, 100 Beach Road, 01-49 Shaw Towers, tel: 6299-1695. Organic groceries, natural health foods and supplements.
Organic 4 Less Trading, Block 194 Pandan Loop, 07-11 Pantech, tel: 6755-5469. Organic groceries and dry goods.
Organic Living Hub, Block 78, Redhill Lane, 01-17, tel: 6473-6818. Specialises in organic dry fruits and veggies.
Organic Story, Block 263, Serangoon Central Drive, 01-77, tel: 6286-7794. Brown rice, juices and fresh vegetables.
Organic Paradise, 62 Temple Street, tel: 6220-8148. Fresh vegetables and a wide range of organic groceries.
Sharon Organics, Block 320, 01-39 Shunfu Market
Sky Organic, 101 Upper Cross Street, 03-78A, tel: 6463-5003. Organic food products and supplements.
Spring Organics, 511 Guillemard Road, 03-10 Grandlink Square
Sunny Choice, 434 Upper Bukit Timah, Railway Mall, tel: 6892-2383
Supernature, 21 Orchard Boulevard, 01-21/27 Park House, tel: 6735-4338. Along with a wide range of organic food, Supernature stocks gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free products. Also offers weekly organic box delivery of seasonal produce.
Taste Original, Block 721 Clementi West, 01-122, tel: 6872-5854. Reasonably priced organic fruit and veggies.
Teng Yang Veg. & Organic, Block 70, Toa Payoh Lorong 4, 01-331, tel: 9386-0542. Oriental organic greens and fruit.
United Nature, 362 Upper Paya Lebar Road, 05-09 Da Jin Factory Building, tel: 6858 2322, http://www.unitednature.com.sg/. Organic fruit juices, natural health supplements and books on juicing and diet.
Yes Natural, 599 Geylang Road, tel: 6846-1580. Organic and natural products like noodles and tofu
Yising Trading, Block 79, 01-121 Redhill Lane. Organic dried goods and groceries like beans, noodles and brown rice.
Yong Xu Organic Enterprise, Block 921 Yishun Central 1, 01-257, tel: 6481-5508. A small selection of organic vegetables, dry fruit and beverages.
Zenxin Agri-Organic Food, Block 14, 01-25 Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, tel: 6778-7369 or 6779-7839. Some of the lowest prices islandwide for organic veggies and fruits freshly harvested in Malaysia. Widest range of organic groceries like pasta, rice, noodles and organic teas.
This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times on Apr 16, 2008.