Survival of farms vital to food security

Survival of farms vital to food security

I READ about the fish deaths at our farms with concern ("Growing concern over future of fish farms"; Monday).

While locally produced fish constitute only a small percentage of the fish consumed in Singapore, they could very well be one of the few sources of fish we are going to get in a crisis, when our sea lines of communication are cut, or when major suppliers refuse or are unable to provide Singapore with fish.

The importance of ensuring our nation's survivability by having food security or being able to produce our own food, in addition to relying on stockpiles, cannot be overemphasised.

It, thus, does Singapore no favours when our fish or vegetable farms are phased out of our land- and coastal waters-scarce territory in the name of progress and development.

Neither does it help if the relatively few farms we have left are allowed to flounder in difficult times.

Already, not many younger Singaporeans are willing to venture into the "risky" business of farming, and farms face a bleak future as their current elderly owners will hang up their nets and hoes one day.

I hope that not only the authorities but also enterprising businessmen and investors will step forward to provide our local farms with much needed capital funding to leverage technology to upgrade their operations and safeguard their livelihood, for example, by building containment tanks to protect the fish from the effects of plankton bloom.

Ways to get around or maximise the limited space and manpower constraints must also be found and implemented.

In addition, more needs to be done to attract younger Singaporeans to "high-tech" farming like aquaculture and hydroponics.

As a start, an Institute of Technical Education or polytechnic course could be introduced to teach students and working adults how technology can be used to make farming a viable business and career option.

Ultimately, it may be a costly and difficult process to attract more to take up farming and to upgrade farms with technology.

However, these can be done if Singaporeans view our farms not just as another source of food on the dining table, but as a critical component of our nation's food security.

Edwin Pang

This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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