Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Post Masters Plan

I suddenly realized that after my Masters, I could essentially go anywhere in the world so why not volunteer overseas?

So I just applied to:
WWF Youth Volunteers
United Nations Volunteers - rejected

More jobs available here http://www.idealist.org
Action against hunger
World Resource Institute
Food & Water Watch
Environment Defense Fund
Center for Food Safety
Environmental Working Group
WWF Jobs
FAO Jobs

Alternatively, how about a paid internship with SIIA?

Or I could be crazy and go for a business / market analyst position in the private sector. What do I really want anyways? And what is wrong with trying something totally different to challenge myself?

Plan for 2009

As of date, this is more or less what is happening:

January - driving exam and field work. Must start on the local field work please! Also looking at coming up with HT publication ASAP. Need to get in touch with potential PhD profs too! Literature review for thesis please.

February - GRE exam; applying for jobs; maybe going to Surin; writing up paper for AAG competition. One chapter in thesis. Finish up vegetable article for SAGE Pub.

March - AAG conference - a whole month in USA; visiting universities on the east coast; writing thesis?

April - writing thesis full speed ahead! Going for job interviews?

May - more writing thesis! Submit first draft!

June - Field Studies 2009?

July - Sister in Singapore - editing and revision of thesis; submit thesis!

August - graduate and preferably start job already! Otherwise go Hokkaido for graduation trip with parents hopefully. But if I so decide to go McGill, I'll be moving to canada? haha some how that is about 40% chance of happening.

'Eat local' movement takes root

By MICHELLE LOCKE Associated Press
Posted: 12/26/2008

SAN FRANCISCO—Here's something you might not know about being a locavore, the new-fangled term for the old-school tradition of eating food grown close to home: Coffee is almost always negotiable.

Here's another: The people practicing this new-old (and currently quite hot) trend may surprise you. Suburban moms? Check. Artisanal-cheese sniffing foodies? Double check. And how about denizens of the decidely un-hippie halls of Wal-Mart?

"It's really amazing how it's just exploded," says Jennifer Maiser, a San Francisco database consultant who was part of a small group credited with coining "locavore," as part of an "eat local" challenge they mounted three years ago.

Since then, wildly fluctuating transportation costs, food scares and global warming concerns, have lent a mainstream patina to eating local. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest grocer has pledged to source $400 million worth of fruits and vegetables from in-state farmers this year.

Some numbers:

— There were 4,685 farmers' markets as of August, according to the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, up nearly 7 percent from two years ago and nearly 3,000 more than 1994, the first year of tracking.

— Locally grown produce was listed as the No. 2 item on a "What's Hot" list by more than 1,200 members of the American Culinary Federation in an October 2007 Internet survey by the National Restaurant Association. (No. 1 was bite-sized desserts, but that's another story.)

— The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement in which members get food delivered from nearby farms has grown to include more than 1,300 farms since its inception in 1985, according to the Robyn Van En Center at Pennsylvania's Wilson College.

Who's eating all this local food?

All kinds of people, from trowel-wielding back-to-the-landers to the tech titans of Google, Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, where Cafe 150 serves food from within a 150-mile radius.

And then there's bluesman Elvin Bishop, accidental locavore.

Best known for the '70s hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," that sent many a couple swaying into the night, Bishop is often to be found these days working in his well-cared for garden in rural Marin County, north of San Francisco.

Bishop started out eating local as an Oklahoma farm boy, but turned to a road diet of fast food and bad food when he started traveling with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the '60s.

A decade of that moved him to buy a place with some arable land—his first tasks were pulling apart an old redwood deck then on the property to frame a greenhouse and digging up the raggedy lawn to plant vegetables.

He's still busy with music, recently releasing a new CD "The Blues Rolls On," a funky collection that features some well-known names, including old friend B.B. King.

But that hasn't stopped him from stocking a deep cupboard in his kitchen with gleaming jars of preserves. (He tried to take a jar of his strawberry jam to King, but couldn't get it through airport security.)

Bishop isn't an official member of the locavore movement, "I'm not too much of an 'ism' type of guy," he notes. What he likes is knowing where his food came from, and that it's going to be tasty.

Taste and freshness are the driving forces for a lot of people interested in buying local foods, says Laurie Demeritt, who studies American eating patterns for The Hartman Group, a research firm in Bellevue, Wash.

National surveys of consumers showed that "local" has a world of different meanings, but there is a unifying theme of wanting to connect with the product—how was it grown, were pesticides used, how were animals treated.

"What we're finding is that the desire to know more about where your products come from is critically important across the United States," Demeritt says.

With the movement still young, researchers are looking for more data to see whether local foods live up to their promise of being safer, healthier and better for the environment, says Rich Pirog, associate director of Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

There is some anecdotal information—for instance, farmer's markets are more likely to be selling unusual varieties like heirloom tomatoes, which maintains genetic diversity, he says. And common sense indicates eating locally means less processed food, and an easier task of tracing where your food comes from.

Living locavore can be tough—imagine life without bananas.

Some followers are hard-core, drinking tea made of local herbs, for instance; while others are more relaxed.

Flexibility is key for Tammy Donroe, a Boston freelance writer and mother of two, who tries to incorporate local food into her family's diet all year.

In October, she went a little deeper for an "eat local" challenge month, which worked fine until farmers' markets closed down and the options were squash, squash or squash.

They survived (with a slight redefinition of "local" pizza) and continue to put as much local food as possible on the table.

"You feel better when you know your money is going to people that you know are trying to make a living honestly and are trying to do the best thing for the environment," Donroe says. "Food that's grown locally tastes better and fresher. I just like the idea of that for my kids."

On the Net:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Food needs 'fundamental rethink'

27 Dec 2008
By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

A sustainable global food system in the 21st Century needs to be built on a series of "new fundamentals", according to a leading food expert.

Tim Lang warned that the current system, designed in the 1940s, was showing "structural failures", such as "astronomic" environmental costs.

The new approach needed to address key fundamentals like biodiversity, energy, water and urbanisation, he added.

Professor Lang is a member of the UK government's newly formed Food Council.

"Essentially, what we are dealing with at the moment is a food system that was laid down in the 1940s," he told BBC News.

"It followed on from the dust bowl in the US, the collapse of food production in Europe and starvation in Asia.

"At the time, there was clear evidence showing that there was a mismatch between producers and the need of consumers."

Professor Lang, from City University, London, added that during the post-war period, food scientists and policymakers also thought increasing production would reduce the cost of food, while improving people's diets and public health.

"But by the 1970s, evidence was beginning to emerge that the public health outcomes were not quite as expected," he explained.

"Secondly, there were a whole new set of problems associated with the environment."

Thirty years on and the world was now facing an even more complex situation, he added.

"The level of growth in food production per capita is dropping off, even dropping, and we have got huge problems ahead with an explosion in human population."

Fussy eaters

Professor Lang lists a series of "new fundamentals", which he outlined during a speech he made as the president-elect of charity Garden Organic, which will shape future food production, including:

* Oil and energy: "We have an entirely oil-based food economy, and yet oil is running out. The impact of that on agriculture is one of the drivers of the volatility in the world food commodity markets."
* Water scarcity: "One of the key things that I have been pushing is to get the UK government to start auditing food by water," Professor Lang said, adding that 50% of the UK's vegetables are imported, many from water-stressed nations.
* Biodiversity: "Biodiversity must not just be protected, it must be replaced and enhanced; but that is going to require a very different way growing food and using the land."
* Urbanisation: "Probably the most important thing within the social sphere. More people now live in towns than in the countryside. In which case, where do they get their food?"

Professor Lang said that in order to feed a projected nine billion people by 2050, policymakers and scientists face a fundamental challenge: how can food systems work with the planet and biodiversity, rather than raiding and pillaging it?

The UK's Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, recently set up a Council of Food Policy Advisers in order to address the growing concern of food security and rising prices.

Mr Benn, speaking at the council's launch, warned: "Global food production will need to double just to meet demand.

"We have the knowledge and the technology to do this, as things stand, but the perfect storm of climate change, environmental degradation and water and oil scarcity, threatens our ability to succeed."

Professor Lang, who is a member of the council, offered a suggestion: "We are going to have to get biodiversity into gardens and fields, and then eat it.

"We have to do this rather than saying that biodiversity is what is on the edge of the field or just outside my garden."

Michelin-starred chef and long-time food campaigner Raymond Blanc agrees with Professor Lang, adding that there is a need for people, especially in the UK, to reconnect with their food.

He is heading a campaign called Dig for Your Dinner, which he hopes will help people reconnect with their food and how, where and when it is grown.

"Food culture is a whole series of steps," he told BBC News.

"Whatever amount of space you have in your backyard, it is possible to create a fantastic little garden that will allow you to reconnect with the real value of gardening, which is knowing how to grow food.

"And once you know how to grow food, it would be very nice to be able to cook it. If you are growing food, then it only makes sense that you know how to cook it as well.

"And cooking food will introduce you to the basic knowledge of nutrition. So you can see how this can slowly reintroduce food back into our culture."

Waste not...

Mr Blanc warned that food prices were likely to continue to rise in the future, which was likely to prompt more people to start growing their own food.

He was also hopeful that the food sector would become less wasteful.

"We all know that waste is everywhere; it is immoral what is happening in the world of food.

"In Europe, 30% of the food grown did not appear on the shelves of the retailers because it was a funny shape or odd colour.

"At least the amendment to European rules means that we can now have some odd-shaped carrots on our shelves. This is fantastic news, but why was it not done before?"

He suggested that the problem was down to people choosing food based on sight alone, not smell and touch.

"The way that seeds are selected is about immunity to any known disease; they have also got to grow big and fast, and have a fantastic shelf life.

"Never mind taste, texture or nutrition, it is all about how it looks.

"The British consumer today has got to understand that when they make a choice, let's say an apple - either Chinese, French or English one - they are making a political choice, a socio-economic choice, as well as an environmental one.

"They are making a statement about what sort of society and farming they are supporting."

Growing appetite

The latest estimates from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that another 40 million people have been pushed into hunger in 2008 as a result of higher food prices.

This brings the overall number of undernourished people in the world to 963 million, compared to 923 million in 2007.

The FAO warned that the ongoing financial and economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty.

"World food prices have dropped since early 2008, but lower prices have not ended the food crisis in many poor countries," said FAO assistant director-general Hafez Ghanem at the launch of the agency's State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008 report.

"The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality," he added.

Professor Lang outlined the challenges facing the global food supply system: "The 21st Century is going to have to produce a new diet for people, more sustainably, and in a way that feeds more people more equitably using less land."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Food for All 2008 Report

The local food activist group, Food for All, has released a 12-page report on "Critical Food Issues in Singapore" [pdf].

The pdf version is now available for download and distribution.

The report covers issues on local hunger, local agriculture, food security, food safety, nutrition, overseas food program and other food related environmental issues. They even cover issues like eating disorders. Quite a myriad of issues.

Understandably most of the members of the groups are students and the report may not be comprehensive or exhaustive, but it's a start. In fact, I am quite weary about the representation of issues in the report since one of the section on local agriculture was actually done as a report for the GE2221 Nature and Society class. Hey, who knows, maybe it's an A grade project! But honestly I am in no position to comment since I've only skimmed through the report and the author has after all done more research than I have. I have barely started on my Singapore end of my research. Woe!

Interestingly, in the recent vol 8 of the Food for All weekly email digest, called The Edible Revolution, one of my blog post was mentioned. Ah well, if you're reading this directed from that email, thanks for the visit. Feel free to share your thoughts and do pardon my rambling. This blog serves to record my overwhelming mental diarrhea regarding my research. It includes field notes and reflections. I do not intend to be very clear about some of the things I write since I have to protect my sources. I also do not write properly since they are not clearly thought out either. They are meant to provoke my thoughts when I read through them again while writing my thesis. Hopefully as I start writing, I will put up some well organized thoughts and writings on this blog.

If you're interested in more thematic writings, and (not much) less rambling, do visit my "real" blog. lol After all, this is like the subsidiary company while the parent company holds up the intellectual facade.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Community Currency research

My research interest has always been focused on looking at improving systems, conservation, consumption and tying people, environment and action together. I've said that I wanted to look at conservation and consumption on a large scale thing for my PhD but there has been so many derivatives of that that I have not been able to pin point down to a specific. I could look at how ideologies of conservation differ and how that translates. I can look at alternative modes of consumption and that will some what carry on from my current research.

Recently the McGill professor interest me because of looking at global scale of deriving alternative paradigms of economy that takes into account the environment which really excites me.

Now I come across the Journal of Community Currency Research which is hosted at University of East Anglia which examines alternative currencies. This is also exciting for me. I'll probably read through the journal to find an interesting prof.

On the other hand, it's reminded me that Kathy Gibson of Australia National University is also working on something similar. But I've always resisted going to australia to study. Is this my downfall?

So my question is, why are these professors situated in Geography? Woe me! So what are the people in environmental studies doing? Seems like the social ecology bunch are all anthropologist so they are going to be doing very micro level studies? I really need to do a lot more research about this.

I'm feeling like every step forward is potentially a butterfly effect. I want to stay through to the theme of research that I've been doing and not be pulled down to a particular topic like food or agriculture. I'm quite sure I want to work on SYSTEMS strategies and evaluations. Must remind myself of that.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Buy local' not the answer to smaller carbon footprint, professor argues

December 17th, 2008 By Geoff Thomas in General Science / Other

(PhysOrg.com) -- In 2006, certain cafeterias on U of T’s St. George campus began serving meals made from ingredients grown mostly in Ontario – an initiative undertaken with Local Food Plus, an organization that promotes local farmers, and campaigns to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint. But at U of T Mississauga, no such food partnership exists – and that may not be a bad thing, according to Professor Pierre Desrochers of geography.

As he argues in a recent policy paper (Yes, We Have No Bananas: A Critique of the ‘Food Miles’ Perspective), a New Zealand apple eaten in Spiegel Hall has more “food miles” (distance food has travelled from production to consumption) on it than the indigenous McIntosh, but its production may have resulted in fewer greenhouse gases. New Zealand apples, he explains, are grown during our winter months and do not need to spend long periods of time in cold storage facilities.

Desrochers’ paper challenges the recent popularity of movements like the 100-mile diet and has made him a virtual pariah to the anti-Agri Business brigade. “The people who protest my paper circle together like musk oxen. They’re reluctant to debate or consider the data. They’re angry at corporations, but feel powerless to effect change. So they transpose their efforts to something they can relate to: food purchases.”

According to Desrochers, buying locally grown but economically uncompetitive products almost never reduces greenhouse gases. In the U.S., more than 80% of food-related energy consumption comes from food production, while the transportation segment accounts for less than 10%. Western European consumers would actually reduce their greenhouse gas emissions if they bought milk solids or apples from highly efficient New Zealand producers rather than from highly subsidized and much less efficient local producers.

“Long distance food transportation by highly efficient diesel container ships represents only a tiny percentage of total energy expenditure in agricultural production,” he says. “Cold storage or greenhouses have much more significant expenditures. North Americans somehow forget that we have seasons!”

Desrochers is not against local food production. He says it works in some places, especially in season. But there was a reason our ancestors shifted away from subsistence farming. “Our modern food supply chain is a demonstrably superior alternative that has evolved through constant competition and ever more rigorous management efficiency.”

Desrochers has no illusions of winning over the prevailing (and politically correct) Local Food Plus faction that pronounces: Let’s go the distance so our food won’t have to. “My brother is a Quebec politician who represents an agricultural riding. I don’t know if I can ever convince him that not buying from local producers is the right thing to do!”

Provided by University of Toronto Mississauga

Thanks to gssq for the tip off.
Still I think that we cannot just look at a particular "label" and buy into it blindly. like "organic" or "local" - how it is grown is always extra important.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Consultancy and Publication Offer

Final Update: I got a reply regarding the consultancy job. As I suspected, being a full time student does not meet with the job requirements. However, they most kindly ask me to get in touch with them when I graduate! It is nice to know that I have headhunters looking out for me :)

2 days ago, I got an email regarding an offer for consultancy work. After consulting with certain avians, this monkey decided to reply after all. I seriously don't think I'm qualified to be a SENIOR national consultant but I'll be happy to be involved in the project. We'll see what happens.
Hello Ms.Tan,
I am looking for a Senior National Consultant to take part in an extensive - Policy Research Project.

The aim of your section of the research project would be to make a policy contribution to the development of secure and sustainable food production systems in Singapore, in addition to efficient regulatory, logistical, distribution and marketing arrangements.

You would be one of a team of eight consultants from various Pacific Rim countries.

To be specific, I am looking for a Senior National Consultant who has all or most of the following:
-being able to demonstrate an understanding of food chains, the current global food situation and policy responses in the - region;
-previous experience in:
1. sectoral economic analysis, for example, agriculture, food marketing, logistics, transport & distribution;
2. analysis of statutory and regulatory rules, the incentives that arise & policy directions for improvement;
3. preparing case studies;
-demonstrated expertise in undertaking consultancy studies/economic research in English;
-evidence of the capacity to deliver high quality products on time & within budget; and
-being able to consult with key stakeholders across the country.

I must stress that at this point MT is just seeking your interest in being part of the multi country team which will be part of the proposal forwarded to -. Fine detail will come later.

Whether the MT proposal is finally approved will be up to - !

I look forward to hearing back from you and hope that you are interested. Please send a CV for inclusion in our proposal to - . Many thanks in advance! I ask that you also provide a phone number so that we can have a short & informal chat ASAP?
Update: no reply so far so it is just an enquiry after all. furthermore, i expressed my own doubts at my lack of qualifications for this job so till next time then!

And then about a few weeks ago, my boss got an email asking if his students might be interested in submitting their thesis as manuscripts for publication but it sounds so spammy. They are from mauritius! Or at least based there? I'm so skeptical but I replied after all. I don't want to disappoint my boss. I think he's upset that I ask if it's a scam. Sigh.
Dear Professor VRS ,

In the course of an Internet research, I came across the dissertation:

' "Saving Chek Jawa" : social capital and networks in nature conservation ' written by your former student, T P T , in year 2006 .

As we would like to make his/her work available to a larger audience, I would be interested to get in touch with your former student to find out if he/she would like to submit the manuscript for review.

Therefore, I would be grateful if you would be so kind as to provide me with his/her email, or even simply forward this e-mail. Thank you.

F Onno
Acquisition Editor
Update: VDM replied. It turns out to be vanity publishing which I suspected as much. Bah I doubt I'll bother with them unless I'm superbly desperate. Hope the consultancy thing turns out a tad less disappointing? But I'm not very optimistic.


Today a little quack told me that during an industry meeting, a marketing research by a competitor reports that 40% of respondents only buys from NTUC regardless of price or brand.

Just as I was vehemently expressing my frustration at the government-allied supermarket which just opened up a 24 hours hypermart at Jurong Point called NTUC Xtra.

Why am I frustrated with them? Because they are supposed to import from my CH supplier but then I can't find anything from them at the BL branch! *grumble* and then because of government alliance they also are supportive of the food supply diversification strategy which means the less I'm able to find CH food right? What more they have their organic brand that only takes Thai brands? I heard the royal project is seriously pushing for organic. Really helps to be a monarchy.

Anywho, I must really visit the supermarket at Liang Court, ASAP!

Oh right, Note to self: get in touch with AVA!

Singapore: COMO Group acquires organic supermarket

Dated: 11 April 2007
Reprinted with permission from Organic Monitor
Asian Food Journal

The Singaporean organic food scene just got a shot of wheatgrass juice in the arm with Club 21 founder Christina Ong's takeover of one of the biggest organic stores in town.

Mrs Ong's COMO group - which includes Club 21, COMO Hotels and COMO Shambhala - has bought over Supernature, one of Singapore's first organic stores, which began life in a quiet corner of Wheelock Place in 1997 and now occupies two units at Park House on Orchard Boulevard.

The acquisition of Supernature completes the circle of wellness that Mrs Ong created with her COMO Shambhala group of holistic centres and resort hotels in exotic locations like the Maldives, Parrot Cay and Bhutan. Besides centres offering classes in yoga, pilates, qigong and the like, COMO resorts are hot hangouts for celebrities and the well-heeled in search of tranquil surroundings that emphasise healing and personal wellbeing.

Group spokesman Ming Tan says: 'Wholesome food has always been a part of the COMO Shambhala concept. Hence, Supernature's entry into the COMO Group is perfectly aligned with COMO Shambhala's drive to inspire and challenge every individual to take charge of his or her own wellbeing and to make healthful, conscious decisions, not only on vacation or during travel, but every day in his or her daily life.'

To take over an existing store as opposed to starting one from scratch just makes good business sense, as Supernature has possibly the widest range of natural and organic foods, from vegetables to sustainably farmed meat and poultry. 'Business has been growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent a year,' says Supernature's owner CF Chen. 'It's come to a point where I cannot manage on my own any more - there are so many suppliers who have heard about us and want us to carry their products, but I just can't cope with the growth.'

Hence, six months ago, she entered into talks with Mrs Ong - a regular customer - to buy over the business in order to expand it. Under the terms of the sale, Ms Chen will continue to run Supernature.

Neither side would reveal the dollar value of the acquisition, but plans are to renovate the existing premises and open new stores. COMO is hoping to use Supernature's vast network of suppliers to increase the variety available here. Says Ms Tan: 'We aim to make it easier to eat organic, with more of our own retail outlets in Singapore and regionally, as well as in partnership with restaurants and other organic stores. In this way, we will be able to offer, directly or indirectly, a much greater range while leveraging economies of scale to make organic eating more affordable and practical.'

There is no shortage of investment in organic food retailers in Asia. COMO's market entry follows Cold Storage's opening of a dedicated organic food supermarket in January. 'Whole Foods Market' style organic food retailers are springing up across Asia as companies target health-conscious consumers. Not all are expected to succeed however, as retailers grapple with pricing and supply chain issues.

Sales of organic foods increase as prices fall

Jessica Lim
14 October 2008
Straits Times
(c) 2008 Singapore Press Holdings Limited
Sourced from Factiva

Retailers are sourcing closer to home and cutting out middlemen

WITH a greater variety of organic produce now coming from closer to home, the prices of these foods have fallen.

Fruit and vegetables from Malaysia and Thailand, grown without pesticides and artificial fertilisers, are now in supermarkets and stores here, alongside pricier goods from Australia and the United States.

At NTUC FairPrice, 500g of organic carrots from Thailand cost $3.50, compared to $5.15 for those from Australia.

Some of the more than 30 varieties of vegetables in its 'Pasar Organic' range cost up to 40 per cent less than organic produce from countries further afield, noted the supermarket chain's director of integrated purchasing Tng Ah Yiam.

The range has logged a 30 per cent jump in sales since its launch in July.

A spokesman for the Dairy Farm group, which owns the Cold Storage supermarket chain, said prices of organic produce had also fallen at its outlets by up to 27 per cent over the past year.

Organic snow peas, for example, which cost $9.50 for 100g last year, are now going at $6.50.

This is good news for consumers in a year of rising prices.

Administrative manager Pauline Tan, 54, who has gone organic with 10 of her friends in the past year, said: 'Age is catching up with us and we realise we have to eat more healthily.'

Like her, more people believe that naturally grown foods are healthier, though research has yet to bear it out.

The rise of organic farms in the region is one factor behind the falling prices. The other is the practice of some suppliers who bypass distributors and sell directly to shops and supermarkets.

Zenxin Agri-Organic Food, for example, supplies vegetables from its farms in Malaysia to its stall, Zenxin Organic, in the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, as well as to supermarkets and stores here.

Mr Tai Seng Yee, 25, and his father began organic farming in Kelantan six years ago. Last year, their four farms were certified organic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia.

The young Malaysian said being near his markets saves him transport and storage costs. The vegetables reach consumers in a fresher state too.

Burgeoning harvests from regional farms like his help bring prices down.

Zenxin's stall now charges $1.70 for 100g of green capsicums from Thailand; a year ago, it was charging $3.20 for Australian capsicums.

The falling prices have triggered a demand for organic produce. A Straits Times check with 10 retail outlets from supermarket chains to HDB shops here found that demand has doubled in just one year.

Mr Tan Chin Hian, managing director of major supplier Ban Choon Marketing, estimates that there are now 75 organic shops in Singapore, up from 40 two years ago.

Organic products sold here range from food to skin-care items and shampoo, but regional suppliers are currently sticking mainly to leafy greens.

This may soon change, predicted Euromonitor International research manager Yvonne Kok. She suggested that organic skin-care products and cosmetics for both men and women could be big next.

Organic Garden in Woodlands has seen customers becoming more savvy.

Storekeeper Jenny Chua said: 'When we first set up shop, people asked basic questions about sea salt. Now, they are asking sophisticated questions about nutritional content.'

Retiree Maria Tsai, 67, believes going organic is about taking charge of one's health: 'Large companies take care of only its profits. It is up to us to take care of our health ourselves.'

Shelf life of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in question

Leong Wee Keat 
 weekeat@mediacorp.com.sg : 

12 December 2008
TODAY (Singapore)
(c) 2008. MediaCorp Press Ltd.
Sourced from Factiva

FOR 25 years, it has been Singapore’s main wholesale distribution centre for vegetables, fruits and dried food products. In recent years, it also made the headlines as a chikungunya fever cluster, the crime scene of the murder of Huang Na in 2004 and a quarantine area during the Sars outbreak in 2003.

Now, the days of the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre (PPWC) may be numbered.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB), which owns and manages the centre, wants to carry out a study on the viability of the centre. Among the areas the HDB wants studied are: Business trends within the next five to 10 years for the centre, the impact of direct imports and whether there is still a need to have a centralised wholesale market.

From the analysis of the information gathered, the HDB hopes to better assess the requirements of the centre’s tenants in planning and redevelopment proposals, either for the existing or a new alternative site.

Wholesalers told Today that the relocation had been discussed recently. In March, the Pasir Panjang Market Vegetable and Fruits Dealers Association held preliminary discussions with the HDB as the lease of the centre was coming to an end. As plans were still being finalised, most of the stalls’ leases were renewed for a further three years.

“We occupy a large area which could be redeveloped for other uses,” said vegetable seller Law Song Nam, who has been at PPWC since 1983.

PPWC, sitting next to the Pasir Panjang Port Terminal and occupying an area equivalent to 20 football fields, is home to about 1,400 units of stalls, shops, cold rooms and offices.

According to HDB’s tender document, the centre “faces the threat of being bypassed as a wholesale centre as there is an increasing trend for businesses to import directly from overseas suppliers”.

“This challenge, together with the ageing building conditions and other dynamic business changes, poses uncertainty to the future for PPWC,” it added.

Despite these challenges, wholesalers feel that they still have a role to play at PPWC. Thygrace Marketing’s owner Philip Seow — who has been in the wholesale trade for 23 years — said that besides market stalls, PPWC wholesalers also supply fruits and vegetables to food manufacturing companies, hotels and restaurants.

“Having more players at a common market means greater variety and more competitive pricing for customers,” he added.

Also, wholesalers pointed out that only large retailers — such as supermarket chains — could reap economies of scale by directly importing produce.

“Small retailers cannot buy 50 boxes at one go for perishables,” said Zenxin Agri-Organic Food’s Mr Tai Seng Yee.

PPWC also caters to retail shoppers. At the centre yesterday, Today spotted a few shoppers looking for bargains.


Is Pasir Panjang hub still viable?
Ang Yiying ayiying@sph.com.sg
458 words
12 December 2008
Straits Times
(c) 2008 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

HDB commissions market survey to decide fate of struggling wholesale centre

THE fate of the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre hangs in the balance. With more businesses importing directly from overseas suppliers, the 15ha site faces the threat of being bypassed as a wholesale centre, according to an HDB tender document on the government business website.

The HDB has called for a major study on the wholesale centre's future viability. It is owned and managed by HDB through an agent and has 1,405 units comprising stalls, shops, cold rooms and offices. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), some 30 per cent of fruit importers and 60 per cent of vegetable importers have their warehouses, cold stores and distribution sites there.

At the wholesale centre yesterday, sellers told the same story: Their sales have been on the decline since the Sars outbreak in 2003 when the market was shut for two weeks after some sellers fell sick.

Some walk-in customers stayed away and never returned, while some businesses found alternative sources by liaising directly with suppliers, said sellers. Most who spoke to The Straits Times said sales had dropped by half since then.

Madam Tan Ai Keow, 55, who has been selling vegetables at the market since it opened in 1983, said: 'Times are bad. The market has no business.'

Sellers said one major issue is that businesses are being directly supplied from Malaysia. Trucks carrying goods go through Customs and deliver directly to businesses.

The AVA, which uses the wholesale centre as an inspection point to take samples to check for pesticide residues and contaminants, said not all goods are required to report to the centre, only randomly targeted vegetables and fruits for the day.

Mr Raymond Tan, owner of MCP Supermarket which has six outlets in Singapore, used to buy all of his produce from the wholesale centre when he established the chain in 1999.

Now, he buys only 30 per cent there. He imports 70 per cent directly from Malaysia.

According to the tender document, the appointed consultant would be given three months to study the overall wholesale industries in vegetables, fruits and dried goods, and in relation to the operations of the Pasir Panjang centre.

It will give recommendations on whether and how the wholesale centre can 'continue to remain relevant and viable in future'.

However, many sellers said if the wholesale centre closes or relocates, they will wind up their businesses. One vegetable seller, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chia, 60, said: 'We're old; we won't carry on if it's gone...It's very hard to sustain the business.'

燃油价下滑 蔬菜价格居高不下

25 November 2008 2047hrs
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Monday, December 8, 2008

Food to my attention

This morning on facebook, A from GUI wrote on his status,

"totally agrees what Ivy Singh said "You can print money overnight but you can't grow food overnight" What is a financial crisis compared to a food/water crisis?"

To add to that, an article on AP caught my attention with the headlines,

"In lean times, SoCal residents trade guns for food"

And it just reminds me of what HL told me the other day about David Harvey talking about how organic food production has diminished the quantity of food, exacerbating the food crisis. But at the same time I'm also reading this manga Akumetsu, which talks about the economic crisis in Japan and the pork barrel politics. And some how I cannot see organic farming as the evil perpetrator. I cannot agree with D Harvey when shouldn't the economic system be under scrutiny instead? Why blame something that at least have good intentions? Of course I do not think that the organic system is anywhere near perfect. It's so problematic in the first place but let's not divert attention from the source of the problem in the first place alright? It's alright to criticize something but to totally discredit organic farming is like diversionary tactic. It's hardly addressing the root of the problem isn't it? What would normal people do with such information except to feel self-righteous and self-justified that organic is "evil" after all and they can continue with their current lifestyle of supporting "normal" crop produce. Of course as W would probably tell me, capitalism is not all that bad. Yes sure, I think that forms of capitalism have always existed but what happen to progress? I think we're way overdue for a paradigm shift.

I do admit however that I am in no position to comment further until I have read up on this more. Perhaps I will take HL's advice and read DHarvey's book on neoliberalism. You can't criticize what you have not read.

Personally I wouldn't start advocating for people to jump onto the organic bandwagon. I would still eat regular produce but this is why I'm more inclined towards the freeganism ideals. Not that I'm about to start climbing into dumpsters though. Still, I think that there is no idealised alternative at this point in time. I'm still thinking. I honestly care less about food safety and what not ever since I started my research. However, I'm being more aware of not consuming food from faraway countries. And yes, if I am the consumer, I would support local organic produce. In that order of priority. I'm not about to consume organic food from the US or Europe! But personally I think the only way I can change my lifestyle is to help exact change in the source of my food. I have decided my "power" as a consumer is not strong enough but neither am I willing to go and amass consumers to my cause. It's such a complex equation. If I address the issue from producer perspective, they will just tell me that there is no consumer support. If I address consumer support, I do not have a produce to deliver to them. I do not think organic is ideal. So what if something is labelled organic? It means hardly anything to me. Especially if it's sold in a supermarket and have fancy packaging.

Seems like, the more one knows, the harder it is for one to live an "easy" life.

So here's my question now - why is it that singapore is not willing to pay more for ethical food but europe, usa, hongkong and japan are willing to? Why is US and Europe supermarkets able to exercise greater pressure on their supply chain while SG is not? Why are we only concerned about food safety while other developed countries can exercise pressure on environmental issues? Is environmental issue in your source really a domestic problem and none of our business? Why does our regulations only limited to food safety? How can we exercise some form of regulation over the environment conditions of where our food come from? Certification? How effective is that? Is there any other way?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

interview with wholesaler #1

I was really afraid of contacting wholesalers because the supermarket people were so mean to me. But today I conclude that I must have met one of the nicest wholesalers in the business. For so many reasons. The guy I spoke with is english educated. unfortunately he's not the son of the farmer but the partner. Oh well, nevermind. different perspective, same business. At the end, he actually entertained me for almost 3-4 hours and gave me a big bag of vegetables! Unfortunately there was a japanese eggplant in my goodie bag but it rolled out and I think it never came back in my bag again *cry* I really wanted to try it coz I would never have bought it on my own. sigh.

On the other hand, I think theirs is a unique perspective and is good to be so open. He says there are ways to get in without gahmen knowing and I wonder about that. He didn't tell me and I don't want to know but geez, I wonder if it's the same methods as I know. Unimportant though. But as ascertained, they are not interested in "domestic issues" and supermarkets don't care either. And best of all, we don't have the purchasing power apparently. Is not enough priority. Dammit I forgot to ask if they know the source is heavily degraded, would they still import from there. Shit. Maybe I should email him to thank him and then sneak in the question.

He say to treat him chicken rice and I definitely don't mind! Even better yet, I promise I will show him around Cameron Highlands. That is definitely doable. I think I can start a SG-CH tour agency O_O" Not that people feel the need for that right? Hmmm... who knows. Farm stay? :D

I don't want to say this but I wonder if his identity as a christian influences his decision making and makes him different from the chinese-educated wholesalers. I cannot say that until I have met other wholesalers. Is it an education thing or a cultural-religion thing? He speaks perfect english; and cantonese and hokkien and teochew and chinese. I'm sure he speaks malay too.

I don't have other to compare to I think but he definitely feels that it's an integral part of his business. Even the branding and the company name. Of course there is no other comparison other than to the US and again, religiosity I would definitely hesitate to comment on.

oh one important thing, i really don't like how these CH exporters disguise their names every each way. now SFL is called United SFL Plantations?! But they export specially to wholesaler #1. Wholesaler #1 doesn't do the auction deal because they do institutional customers but yet they still do home delivery so what's up with that? SH only supply them with cucumbers. Momotaro is expensive coz seed is expensive. Branding is important. Price can be 100% different pre and post packaging. I think consumer target is different too. the indonesian products because of the air/sea freight(?) are all very professionally packaged, with plastic and box prints. They happen to have the same branding too, unplanned. Their quality more consistent. The CH ones are totally unprocessed. Wholesaler must do QC and packaging. 90% of the ones he get from CH are unprocessed. But of course post-handling are done in CH only if direct to supermarket.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Publishing about yaoi

Was having dinner with M and he was absolutely amazed by the transnational yaoi phenomenon that i'm describing. he said that it can really reflect social change, common aspirations, the transnational phenomenon and how is it connected through the east asian countries, diasporas and beyond. Personally i think he's just disconnected from his homeland! haha

I'm definitely no where near changing my masters topic but this is definitely a potential in terms of just a random paper to publish. I was also very inspired by Anne Allison's presentation week(s) previously. There is much to be seen about the sociability and social change through manga as a text. Why do people read yaoi? Why do people publish yaoi? The mangaka never look outside of japanese audience but how did this become such a big thing in other asian countries and even south america! Looking at the fansub community is just mind blowing. Even for me, I'm already not very well versed in the chinese BBS but it's there alright. how how how did this happen? what do people like about yaoi? are there papers done already? I really should do a literature review.

But on a serious note, I think I need a collaborator for sure. Natalie Oswin? Anne Allison? kekeke What do I know about cultural studies or gender studies? Or japanese studies even? I'm deeply convinced that there's been a lot written already. Besides, this means that I need to continue my japanese language lessons. Also, what do I know about reading manga as text for insights into japanese society? this is out of my realm or am I just shortchanging myself? how many academics is a crazy fujoushi like me? lol

A quick search on google scholar reveals that there are much written on gender studies, communications, japanese studies literature. I just need to make this a geographical one eh? *Grin*

Note to self: refer to notes of anne allison's lecture on commons / multitudes for CJ paper.

I'm a "published" author!

While doing a name search for myself I found that I am actually on the National Library Board's database!

Bukit Timah : a heritage trail / [researcher-writer, November Tan Peng Ting ; photographer Ung Ruey Loon].

Author: Tan, November Peng Ting
Publisher: Singapore : National Heritage Board, 2007.
Format: Book
Physical Description: [48] p. : ill. (chiefly col.), map ; 23 cm.
Subjects: Bukit Timah (Singapore) Guidebooks
Singapore Guidebooks
Bukit Timah (Singapore) History
Bukit Timah (Singapore) Description and travel

Hmm how do I put this on my resume? lol I am planning to submit my CV for the PMO career talk but that means I've to update my CV soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vegetable prices rise 10-15% due to early rainy season

By Liang Kaixin, Channel NewsAsia
25 November 2008 2057 hrs

SINGAPORE : Vegetable prices have risen by 10 to 15 percent on average during the past month due to the rainy season.

The rainy season, which began a month earlier this year, has affected harvests in Malaysia, where half of Singapore's vegetable imports come from.

The rains have also affected chilli harvests in Thailand, Vietnam and other neighbouring countries.

Chilli prices have doubled to some S$6 a kilogramme, the highest in 10 years. - CNA /ls
I got to seriously think about working this into my interview questions with the wholesaler on thursday. how much is really from malaysia? how much from cameron highlands?

The Chinese news has more details. I love the chinese media in Singapore.

燃油价下滑 蔬菜价格居高不下
25 November 2008 2047hrs
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

no guts for field work

i'm really not the cold call kinda gal. Yesterday i emailed one of the wholesalers via an email form (gah!) and im just wondering, what if they never reply? Should I call? I want to look for the boss but then I don't dare to call and ask for the boss. Gosh. What should I do? I really need to interview them. Help! I guess knowing the boss' dad doesn't work. :(

when do you think they will call me back? when should i start calling them? omfg nervous!

Please reply me soon! *pray*

Update @ 21 Nov 08 12:31PM
Still no reply from them. If by monday nothing happens I need to execute plan B. oh gawd... :( please please please email me back!

Update @ 23 Nov 08 10:00PM
I got a call from somebody from the company! Don't know if it's the boss or not but I can have an interview on Thursday! HURRAY!

Letter to a potential environmental geography undergrad

One of my professors got an email inquiry from a potential undergrad interested in conservation and a geography degree. She was interested to know how conservation and geography degree could be related and the prof ask a few of us "environmentally inclined" geog students to email her. I thought I'll share my long enthusiastic email. It'll probably apply to any students who might be interested in doing geography in NUS and interested in the environment!
"Well personally I would say that Geography comes closest to environmental studies in Singapore without becoming an engineer or scientist. Geography covers topics of human-nature relationship and issue amongst other things :) If you are more inclined towards the sciences, we also have physical geography that covers many aspects from hydrology, coastal geomorphology to biogeography. Personally I'm doing more environmental geography. Right now I'm actually doing my Masters and I'm researching on ethical food production and Singapore's ecological footprint, farmers environmental behaviour, etc :) For my honors thesis, I looked into social capital and networks in nature conservation.

What more, in NUS, there is also lots of opportunities to go overseas for student exchange and field studies. I did both. For student exchange, I went to University of California, Santa Barbara where I did geography and environmental studies and got even more exposure to different topics like environmental planning, etc. For field studies, we spend 1.5 months in Thailand where we get to do research in the field! I did that in my first year and learnt a lot about sustainable resource management by the ethnic minorities in the northern thailand highlands :) This is actually a module where you earn 8MC (equivalent of 2 classes in NUS) by having fun overseas doing really cool gungho fieldwork research haha :) So all this I got to do thanks to geography at NUS. They really encourage students and give them lots of opportunities to try many many things.

But at the same time, in NUS, you also need to do other modules from other departments and faculty. So this is where you can learn more by taking modules in biology or any other departments that you might be interested in. I did a lot of modules from biology to supplement my own understanding.

NUS also offers joint programs with University of North Carolina and the Department of Biology also offers a minor with overseas university for all students in NUS so you can do geography and the minor and it'll be just as good as any environmental studies or management bachelor program in the world :) In fact, in many universities, the env studies program is an interdisciplinary program where many of the professors are actually from geography!"

Update @ 21 Nov 2008, 1:08AM
I realize that this has been advertised on WildSingapore so it's going to be read by more than I expected. That's quite worrying because I don't think that this "letter" is neither comprehensive nor representative about geography, conservation-studies nor environmental geography. It's just a little bit about my experiences and mostly because the person was interested in Geography at NUS so my sharing was very biased. Absolutely PR. Of course there is more that I have not written. I often personally attribute most of what I learn not from my geography classes but to all the other activities and opportunities that I got through my time in university and this is not limited to Geography. From being with toddycats to writing my thesis, joining beachfleas, NHC and now TLW, my journey is still going on. Of course I've also been limited by Geography but purely my own fault for not becoming a physical geographer. I should be measuring things out there right now but I never did very well at that. Drats! So I've actually discovered what I'm better at and focus on my own niche. The self-discovery is still continuing today! I definitely can't claim to know it all already. It's quite true what they say, "the more you know, the more you realize you know nothing".

encyclopedia entry about vegetables

Today, got an email about a new publication on environmental issues (green energy, green politics and green food). Of course green food is right up my alley...

This publication is an online reference resource like an encyclopedia. There is a list of topics sent out and vegetables was still not yet taken! It just felt like such a sign to me. I just emailed the managing author with my research interest and tried very hard explaining why i have no publications to show for. Sigh. But I don't have anything else except one newsletter article for SEC and the many booklets I wrote for NHB. Ok, that hopefully counts for something.

The editor for NatureWatch has been chasing me to write something. I really should take the opportunity to write more for them! It's almost like a willing audience... C'mon gambarimasu monkey!

I really hope that the editor comes back favourably. It's really quite something to write on your CV that you were a contributing author for SAGE Publications!

Update @ 20 Nov
The managing author came back with monkey's first academic "publication" woohoo! well i mean she'll let me write so that's good yay! The down side (or maybe it's a good thing too) is that the topic is US-centric so I have to do extra research.

She wrote:
"Just to give you a little direction, you may want to cover ways of growing "green" vegetables, and the impact on the environment by farmers as they grow vegetables in non-green ways. Also, the stress should be a US focus as the audience is US students."

Gosh ok I really need to go read up now! Maybe Masao's wife can help give me a few advice. Hmmm Hope all goes well.

Commonwealth Scholarship

Just as I've given up hope on UK universities, the commonwealth scholarship for developed countries came under my radar.

"Applications for the 2009 Commonwealth Scholarship for students from the Commonwealth to study in the United Kingdom are now open. The Scholarship is for study at PhD level in the UK in 2009. Candidates may also apply for a “split-site” award for one year’s study in the UK as part of a PhD being taken in Singapore. We should encourage our best students to apply."

Details on the Commonwealth Scholarship may be found at this website: http://www.cscuk.org.uk/2009ScholarshipstodevelopedCommonwealth.asp

After talking to Lucian today at lunch, I'm wondering if I should apply for studies straight away or just stick to my work plan. Cause for concern is that such opportunities and information may not be available to me once I graduate! :( Maybe I can tell pauline to keep me in the loop...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

field studies 2009

bumped into CGW outside the office just now and asked about field studies and i think i got myself drafted. i have been contemplating it ever since i got "liberated". i wonder if it would be a good decision though...if i were looking for job... or what if i had to finish my thesis or rewrite? omg. this means that i have to finish my thesis by APRIL. Hey that's an incentive to write faster. write faster then maybe monkey can go thailand and find a nice handsum thai boy! haha oh gawd im despicable. alright alright, i am going there because i miss thailand dammit. and also because if im really interested in working on becoming a southeast asianist i need to work on my field experience.

sometimes i really wonder what i'm up to. on the other hand my family wants to go hokkaido around that time of the year next year and they did invite me to go along... dammit. japan. hokkaido. thailand. cute boys. omg i cannot decide~ haha hope i can have my cake and eat it too. Slurp~

This would be my last chance to do field studies before i go overseas to do phd or start work in gahmen, etc. but i have to start applying for job in january. get a job for 1 year in civil service singapore or international orgs and then do my phd? must do my GRE in january too... after i pass my driving test! But I think I should write my thesis first before thinking about phd proposals...

When I'm in AAG in March I should definitely be ready to talk to potential supervisors for Fall Admission 2010.

February must be finished with my paper to submit to competition and maybe churn out something from my honors. damn im screwy

Must remember to email CGW at the end of the year to talk about this again.

where did all the cameron veggies go?

went to the supermarket just now to do some market research... literally
and lo and behold
all my cameron highland vegetables are no where to be seen!
replaced by genting highlands and thailand veggies!
wtf! so ok, thygrace and grace cup is a repeating feature
ok very very scary
what happen to my other big suppliers?
no kc kwang and sons? no freshever?
well zenxin is out and about so that means it's possible that the veggie is from cameron organic produce but COP is also reducing their exports to zenxin already. gawd i need to interview the singapore importers and this is freaking me out. sigh

This is bad for my research

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

SALM certification

My new transcriber has been superbly efficient, churning out transcripts like a machine! *deeply impressed* Today she emailed to ask about "SHALAM", the Malaysian Good Agriculture Practices certification. Officially known as SALM (Skim Amalan Ladang Baik Malaysia). (DOA Website) So while at it, I also told her about SOM (Skim Organik Malaysia) and found the Department of Agriculture (Jabatan Pertanian) websites and some posters of the skims.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New work resolution for 08-09

Nearing the end of my masters, I find myself constantly distracted. I haven't done any work since I came back from fieldwork. It got worse after Japan and Peru. Finally I got a minute to reorganize my desk and came up with a new schema for the rest of my masters career. Gawd It's time to get rid of my september calendar on my desk. It's November for crying out loud! Time to let November shine!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post-lecture reflections

Today I finally gave my lecture on ethical food.

I felt I digress quite a bit and at points repetitive. It would have been a tad too confusing for the students that are uninitiated to the world of "food".

Well there were many people yawning and even falling asleep but that can't be helped. I made them laugh with a few jokes and go ewwww with my MAS earthworm-coleslaw story haha oh well. I hope they got the point. The turn out was better than expected. The class had about 150 students and at least 100 turned up! I really hope I got them thinking more about where their food come from.

Harvey felt that the lecture was good. He didn't give me any criticism at all except saying that it was good. He will use some of my slides in the environmental sustainability module next semester.

Heather (student and food activist) felt that:

- it was comprehensive and good breadth
- not enough depth
- could have included case study on one particular label perhaps
- include more food activist groups (like food not bomb, freeganism)
- could have included biofuel
- learnt something new about the ethicureans
- like the graph I did on eco-anthropocentrism vs consumer-producer centered movements/concepts
- felt that some of the uninitiated students might not be able to know enough for me to talk about elitism of slow food movement
- could have included more examples from my fieldwork

Well I guess people are more generous than I am with myself! Nonetheless I had fun :) It was particularly good that Harvey was giving out chocolates for the students and we could use the chocolates as examples about where food comes from. That's really helpful! I think I still have more to improve on in terms of organizing my thoughts, the flow of learning for the students to better understand concept. I have to stop saying "we'll come back to that later". Better flow would have prevented that. I should have at least rehearsed once. Oh well bummer. It didn't help that at points I actually forgot what I was talking about or forgot names of examples. Oh dear dear. I should remember to skip over when I forget. Still I kept good time and didn't overshot. They even got a 10minute break! :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Joining an organized session at AAG

Truth be told I agonized over getting an organized session at AAG for the longest time. The original session I wanted on food and vulnerability was full(!) and so I turned away from the cultural and political ecology group and found that the Environmental Perception and Behavioral Geography Specialty Group had a session on geographies of sustainable consumption.

I tweaked my abstract a lil and sent it in! The organizers turned out to be quite excited about my paper even though I'm talking about production as much as consumption. Apparently the session has turned out to be quite popular and was split into several. Today I finally took the guts to check out the session I'm in and hold and behold, I was grouped together with Michael Goodman! I don't know how big of a name is he but the fact that I've read him several times in my literature reviews makes me extremely excited. I think I even quoted him in one of my papers. *giggle like a schoolgirl* Wait, I am a schoolgirl!

The reason why joining organized sessions is really important is as Henry told us at GRS. If you go to a generic session, you may be placed together with random people. Chances of getting a big name is slim and so you might get zero audience. Maybe just you and the chair. Gosh some of the speakers might not even turn up. Having a big name guarantees you some audience which is good! And of course the networking! W00t! Either way, I didn't expect Goodman but damn it's good.

And I'm really excited about the other speakers too. Shit that's what going to a conference should be about. Learning and exchanging ideas.

Geographies of Sustainable Lifestyles I: Conceptualising Consumption

The start of the 21st century has been characterised by urgent calls to examine the role of consumption in driving global environmental change and framing responses to these ecological dilemmas. Indeed, the ways in which consumption has been constituted and influenced by environmental, technological, economic, social and political processes have become critical issues for geographers. The convergence of these two research agendas has therefore provided geographers and other social science researchers with a range of opportunities to explore the emerging contexts for 'sustainable lifestyles' and the growing political importance of behaviour change. These have been undertaken at a range of scales (from individuals and households, to organisations and institutions) and have examined numerous environmentally-related practices that encompass consumptive, habitual and 'post-consumption' behaviours. Indeed, research in this field is characterised by a range of theoretical and applied approaches. Accordingly, this session aims to bring together geographers and other social scientists who are engaged in research on sustainable consumption, lifestyles and behaviour change. The session will provide an opportunity to explore the range of approaches towards sustainable consumption and will enable delegates to share theoretical and practical experiences from their research. We welcome contributions from researchers who are exploring this wide field, including those working on issues such as energy conservation, water resources, waste management, travel and transport, leisure and tourism and the broader field of ethical and green consumption. Contributions are welcome from those working at different scales (e.g. individual, household, organisational) and in a range of contexts (socio-economic, cultural, environmental).

Anticipated Attendance: 40

Frances Fahy
Stewart Barr

Stewart Barr

Michael K Goodman, Encountering (Ethical) Consumption and the Limits to an Ethics of Care
Jonathan Everts, The Ethical Consumer?
November Peng Ting Tan, Producing "Ethical Food" in the Singapore-Malaysia Vegetable Trade System
Louise Rutt, Commodifying Charity: Alternative Giving as Ethical Consumption
Lucy Cartlidge, The 'making' of eco-homes in England

Environmental Perception and Behavioral Geography Specialty Group

Ethical Food Lecture Slides

I will be giving this lecture on Tuesday, 28 October. I think the organization still needs a bit reworking. I hope I don't overrun on time. Will remember to pace myself. Eek. There's just too much to say. At some point I think it's not very coherent. I must definitely work out what I intend to say :) I guess that means I will be killing some trees to print out the outline. Bummer. Turn out I didn't print anything after all! Figured I'll use my mac which allows me to view my notes while doing the presentation. Love my mac *hugs* saved a few trees that way!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Singapore Food Industries looks into setting up pig farm in China

By Wong Yee Fong, Channel NewsAsia
23 October 2008

SINGAPORE: Singapore Food Industries is studying the feasibility of setting up a pig farm in China's Jilin Province.

The feasibility study will be completed within the next six to 12 months.

The plan is to have the pig farm and pork-processing facilities within a food zone.

Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan says Singapore will invest in the project and provide its expertise in food safety in the joint partnership with the Jilin government.

Mr Mah said, "The long-term objective is to provide supply of food, not just for local consumption, and export to Singapore, which is in line with the overall objective of ensuring food security in Singapore."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Greens from TRASH but they're still FRESH

So says KL health official of veggies picked up by Myanmar scavengers and sold in market
WHEN we make a trip to the market to buy vegetables, we usually just do a visual check for their freshness.
The Electric New Paper
30 September 2008

WHEN we make a trip to the market to buy vegetables, we usually just do a visual check for their freshness.

But would you buy the veggies if you were told that they were actually picked up from dumpsites, even if they were certified safe for consumption?

That was what had been taking place in a wholesale market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Scavengers from Myanmar had been foraging through decaying vegetables discarded at dumpsites at the Selayang wholesale market, reported the Malay Mail. They then packed and sold them to unsuspecting pasar malam traders and restaurants.

And the local authorities have certified the vegetables as fit to eat.

Officers from the Health Ministry, the Gombak district and City Hall Health Department had visited one of the markets believed to be selling the discarded vegetables and confiscated them for tests.

An official from the Health Ministry was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that tests found the greens to be free from germs, chemicals, microbes and pesticides. He also said the vegetables were found to be fresh enough to be sold.

'We have done all the preliminary tests on the vegetables and found that they are not tainted,' said the official. 'The only laws that the Myanmar nationals are breaking are the immigration law and conducting businesses without licences.'

His remarks have set health experts questioning why the vegetables were discarded in the first place. They also wanted to know how many times and what kinds of vegetables were tested, and why the ministry was sanctioning the sale and consumption of the vegetables.

Meanwhile, prompted by the Malay Mail's report, KL Mayor Ab Hakim Borhan visited the wholesale market with the Immigration Department, Selayang Municipal Council and an Alam Flora representative.

They personally inspected the market for cleanliness, enforcement and facilities.

UN protection for refugees Datuk Hakim was said to have been shocked at what he saw, but he said
that immigration officials could only confiscate the refugees' goods but not arrest them as they were protected under the United Nations refugee programme.

He said he would discuss the matter with the immigration department and the UN refugee programme.

'We will look into their plight and see if the workers could be provided with legal work documents,' he said.

He added that in order to curb the growth of illegal traders at the wholesale markets, a special vehicle sticker will be issued by the City Hall Health Department.

Business operators in the markets were hiring the Myanmar refugees without work permits as assistants because local people were not keen to do the work.

Some of these Myanmar nationals are involved in the sale of discarded vegetables as a means of extra income.

Datuk Hakim said that security in the area will be beefed up by having officers work on three shifts to guard the market at all times.

'Though the market operates from 2am-11am, the peak hour is around 3am when many illegal operators are active,' he said.

'To make sure that the operations run smoothly, we will place our officers at the entrance and exit to monitor the flow of vehicles,' he said.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The dilemma of presenting original work

While discussing a job candidate the other day, VRS mentioned that I shouldn't be presenting original work. In reference to the job candidate, VRS said, "he doesn't present new things, it's already published!"

Unfortunately, I'm hoping to present a small part of my (definitely unpublished) masters thesis, a work in progress at next year's AAG in Las Vegas.

I really don't know if I should be doing that. Granted, the event is not really for serious academic discussion, more for networking and catching up. But still, who knows who is listening out and taking your ideas. sigh.

In the SEAGA conference in May, again I presented my HT which is yet unpublished. I threw in all the good stuff in there. Call me a newbie but I should be more careful about these things but how? How much should I present and how much not to? I'm also trying to attract potential supervisors, phd programs or jobs or whatever so then I don't want to sound like an idiot either. Then how?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Transcriber-Translator Needed

I am looking for a transcriber for interviews conducted in Malay as part of my Masters dissertation fieldwork. Transcriber is required to translate the interviews from Malay to English and document the final transcript in English only.

Transcriber will be paid one lump sum upon work completion preferably by October ‘08.

Fluency in Bahasa Melayu / Bahasa Indonesia and English required. Undergraduates preferred. Malaysians most welcomed since the interviews are conducted in Malaysia. Transcriber does not need to be in Singapore!

Please email me (tan at nus dot edu dot sg) for more details.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Today's work order

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!
No, I'm not exaggerating. Woe!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


today henry said that UBC is the top geog department in his opinion. so i went and check out their phd program. one of the asst profs interest me with her work in the cultural politics of nature conservation latin america. suddenly it inspired me to do a cross comparison between latin america and SEA experience in conservation - looking at cultural differences and different cultural experiences. differential experiences of the global south. hmmm unfortunately i am hesitant about working with assistant professors. i do want to do something that breaches latin america and southeast asia. i'm quite keen on working on a regional perspective of environmentalism and conservation or a comparison between two areas - east-west studies or a comparison in any of the so-called "global south". why is latin america, africa and southeast asia having such different experiences? or is it so different?

Then i discovered that UBC has an Institute for Resources, the Environment and Sustainability (IRES) but I'm not sure how it works. They have a department of geography of course. But unfortunately I think they have no fellowship funding! *cry* Besides, will W go to Canada?

ChATSEA does have faculty in UBC - Michael Leaf and Terry McGee. McGee is a Prof Emeritus of UBC so I don't think he can supervise and Michael Leaf is from the School of Community and Regional Planning... he's doing more environmental planning in developing urban areas. Tuition is waived for the School of Community and Regional Planning. I'm not sure I want to do a PhD in planning though. Masters maybe... I always wanted to do environmental planning. Planning for change sounds good. It sounds good on a practical level. Something that I can do in Singapore too but academically, I prefer the more airy fairy fluffy things. Oops. Then how?

On the other hand, there is some other very exciting PhD that UBC offers:

Integrated Studies in Land & Food Systems - this will be a continuation of what i'm doing now which i'm actually quite keen on. i dunno come out do what though... FAO?

Resource Management and Environmental Studies (PhD) - this is under the IRES thingy that I mentioned earlier. So I guess it is an option.

And of course, geography. Hmmm....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

NTUC FairPrice launches first organic produce certification programme

By Imelda Saad
Channel NewsAsia
31 July 2008

SINGAPORE : Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice has launched a certification programme that guarantees the integrity of the organic produce along its entire supply chain.

FairPrice's Pasar Organic range is a new housebrand range of organic produce which comes with these labels.

It is audited by Singapore's Agrifood Technologies and gives customers the assurance that the organic produce is more than just pesticide-free.

The vegetables under the Pasar range are organically grown and harvested from six different farms in Thailand.

Stringent organic practices are applied to the farms, transportation, storage facilities and retail stores.

For example, organic farms have to be about 10-20 kilometres away from industrial land. There has to be enough space between inter-cropping to ensure the soil is rested, and organic produce is packed in special containers away from non-organic ones.

"Because we go direct to the farms, so we put in our own certification. We are, on average, able to sell the produce about 50 per cent cheaper than average of other organic products," said Ng Ser Miang, Chairman of NTUC FairPrice.

FairPrice's organic range will include more than 30 types of vegetables including Asian varieties such as "chye sim" (cai xin).

And if sales are anything to go by, the demand for organic products in Singapore is growing. FairPrice said sales of its organic produce grew by 20 per cent last year compared to the year before.

For now, the Pasar organic range is available at 10 FairPrice stores, including its new Fairprice Finest outlet at Thomson Plaza.

The Thomson Plaza Fairprice Finest outlet has a "Just Organic" section, which features over 800 varieties of organic products including condiments, baby food, beverage, snacks and household cleaners.

The outlet is the second FairPrice Finest store, a new retail concept started by the labour movement, to bring quality food products at affordable prices to Singaporeans.

The concept has proven to be a hit. FairPrice said since the first store was opened at Bukit Timah Plaza in August last year, sales have gone up by 50 per cent.

Monkey says: NTUC starts their own organic certification scheme and only from thailand! hmmm must try to interview them!

Friday, July 18, 2008

New committee set up to ensure stability in long term food supply

By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia
18 July 2008 2107 hrs

SINGAPORE: As global supply shocks continue to hit food-importing countries, the government has taken another step to help ease the impact of escalating prices. It has set up a committee to study how the country can ensure stability in long term food supply.

When the avian flu struck the region in 2004, Singapore companies which had buffer stocks of frozen poultry in their cold stores were able to do business as usual.

Speaking at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) Food Safety Awards Night 2008 on Friday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, said food companies here need to develop similar business continuity plans in case of a break in supply.

Singapore is already importing food from more countries and has turned to frozen meat as a cheaper alternative.

Among its plans, the new inter-agency committee will examine Singapore's farming policy while investing in food production overseas.

Mr Mah said: "We need to recognise that many of the factors that are affecting the food supply situation today are not temporary ones, but structural changes. For example, the increased demand for food is due to rising affluence of developing countries, diversion of arable land for biofuel production and climate change."

The committee will be led by the ministries for National Development and Trade and Industry.

But Mr Mah said that the top priority goes to ensuring the food that we eat, is safe. The AVA closely regulates the food that we consume but Mr Mah said businesses too need to take the initiative.

And as consumer tastebuds become more discerning, it makes business sense for food establishments to maintain high standards. - CNA/vm

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Want to buy mattress?

This niffy lil sales gimmick was following us from 10am at the apartment to lunch at Tringkap while we were waiting for farmer to pick us up till much later it was still roaming the hills of cameron highlands! lol such a catchy lil drummy tune, you can't get it out of your head!

It's multilingual too. First in chinese then in malay! tilam, tilam, mai zhang tilam!
I can't catch the Malay version, can anybody tell me what he said? something about changing an old tilam for a new one!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Agriculture entrepreneurs to the fore

Source : News Straits Times
Posted on 20-12-2007 in Invest Penang

AS THE nation's third engine of growth, the agriculture and agro-based industries are fast being recognised as an increasingly vital part of the economy.

From padi farming to livestock breeding, fisheries, flowers, vegetables and processing industries, efforts are under way to develop new technologies and methodologies to increase yields and maximise profitability.

Under the New Agriculture Programme, the Government has pumped in RM11.4 billion to bolster the sector further, giving birth to new agro-entrepreneurs.

The programme also nurtures existing and aspiring farmers by giving them support and numerous incentives.

As a result, these entrepreneurs continue to thrive and are a part of a new generation of smart agro-entrepreneurs, achieving success throughout the nation. They are expected to contribute to Malaysia's future progress.

Under the New Agriculture Programme, one such agro-entrepreneur is Melon Master Sdn Bhd owner M. Kaliyannan, who delves in melon and fruits production.

From humble beginnings 30 years ago, Kaliyannan's family venture has grown to become a true master of melons.

Today, the Perak-based company is the country's leading wholesaler and exporter of all types of melons such as water melons, honeydew and rock melon, as well as exotic melons such as Jade, Black Beauty and Sun Lady.

The secret of his business lies in the integration of production and distribution activities as well as rigorous research and development.

In fact, his dedication to science and technology has earned him a name in the "Malaysia Book of Records" as the first in the country to produce square watermelons.

"I first started on a 2ha plot of land which has expanded 100-fold to over 200ha now, spanning all over Perak, employing 70 workers," said Kaliyannan.

Sungkai-based Melon Master, which is certified by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry, now produces 1,500 tonnes of melons a year worth RM1 million in sales (depending on current market prices).

Out of the 1,500 tonnes, 20 per cent is exported to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Melon Master supplies local hypermarkets, mostly in its original form and not in the processed form.

"I get good support from the Government which provides me funding, technical expertise and chemical fertiliser. The challenges are huge due to the competitive nature of the industry.

"The business is also capital intensive and I have to reinvest whatever money that I make. Land is also expensive, so I have to lease right now to grow three seasons of the melon a year," said Kaliyannan.

Another entrepreneur, Bandar Agro Spice Industries Sdn Bhd managing director Sidek Rosman started his business in 2003, but has been focusing on research and development since 15 years ago.

The company produces 15 types of spices and 34 types of other products such as lemon grass powder, ginger, curry, kaffir lime, cinnamon, hot chilli and others, supplying to major food industry players such as Nestle.

The company churns out up to 50 tonnes of spices a year in semi-raw form, chalking sales of around RM2 million a year, which are for local consumption as well as for the export market.

"We are in close contact with Malacca farmers involved in the various biotechnology programmes as well as the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority.

"For future plans, the company which already has two plants in Sepang, plans to build a third one next year with an investment of up to RM10 million," said Sidek.

Twin Diamond Plantation owner Kwang Keh Chong Sr started growing all types of tomatoes in 1972 at a 2ha site in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. The business has ballooned to 20ha currently.

Kwang said the going was tough initially, as he had to borrow money from family and friends to start the business as banks were reluctant to provide financing.

But Kwang persevered, and the business thrived. From renting farms when he started, Kwang can now afford to buy them and build a processing facility.

"Business has been good, and we plan to develop an additional 15ha over the next three to five years, with an investment of up to RM6 million," he said.

Twin Diamond produces up to 10 tonnes of tomatoes daily (market price of RM1 per kg), of which 70 per cent is exported to Singapore while 30 per cent is for local consumption.

Kwang said to be successful, companies must watch their financials closely and not spend unnecessarily. Looking ahead, the company plans to incorporate more professional farming methods.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PhD at UC Berkeley

Just in case I really need to go to Berkeley, I think I need to go do a statistics class this semester. S/U shouldn't be a problem right? Choose one that is useful to my current research as well. That should be good.

The downside about Berkeley is that there is no guaranteed amount of fellowship available. I need to apply apply and apply, unlike Yale. Bah. Money seems to be hard at Berkeley. 18,000/year for the fellowship. Well it's as simple as this - if no money, no go lor. The faculty is also somewhat lack lustre.

"We make every effort to support our entering and continuing students from a variety of resources including University Fellowships, Departmental Restricted Fellowships, and Graduate Student Research Assistantships (GSRs). We also encourage our students to apply for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions. We make our financial support offers at the time of admission."

On the other hand, the relevant faculty all seem to be women! Possible ones under the Division of Society & Environment in the Department of Env Sci, Policy and Management in the College of Natural Resources include:

Sally Fairfax
Professor, Henry J. Vaux Distinguished Professor of Forest Policy
"the role of artisenal agricultural production as an element of land conservation in a transforming rural economy. I am personally focusing on cheese and dairy, and organic production generally."

Nancy Lee Peluso
Professor, Society & Environment Chair
Sociologist / Anthropologist working with Peter Vandergeest on Malaysia / Thailand / Indonesia on forest and agrarian politics
- the Indonesian powerhouse and Berkeley ChATSEA fella, OG aka Pak Api, is working with Peluso. Sigh. I'm intimidated.

Jeffrey Romm
"Our group studies how the dynamics of social distribution, economic growth, and ecosystems interact and respond to alternative forms of policy and organization." Works on Southeast Asia as well but focuses more on specific projects and phenomenon as well as impacts of policies on resources and environmental possibilities.

Alastair T Iles
Asst Professor (PhD in Env Law and Policy)
Works on sustainable industry and consumption as well as sustainability learning. Working on developing tools to educate consumers, etc. This could really be something I want to move into.

Dara O'Rourke
Assoc Professor (PhD in Energy and Resources)
Works on Environmental, Social and Equity impacts of global production system. Again, some what relevance to what I am doing now.

David E Winickoff
Asst Professor (Trained in Law)
Bioethics, representations, institution governing of food, etc.

Funding in the Geography department in Berkeley on the other hand, appears to be a lot more encouraging. However, the professors are seriously limited.

Louise Fortmann
Professor of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and Geography
However she works in Africa mainly although some of the topics seems quite interesting. Natural resources related of course.

Gillian Hart
Chair of Undergraduate Major in Development Studies
Works in Southeast Asia and Africa on gender, development and agrarian issues.
On top of that, she is also a ChATSEA advisor!!! Ok this is good potential.

Jake Kosek
Assistant Professor
If I want to move into critical theory stuff then this is probably it. Also very active in NGO outside academia so maybe can relate a bit better to each other but I'm not sure I want to be so airy fairy. And to work with an Asst Prof!

Richard Walker
Professor; Chair, California Studies Center
If I want to venture into the realm of economic geography and california studies, this will be it probably. He reminds me of some professors we know...

Michael J. Watts
He's doing oil and islam terrorism but also in social and cultural theories and development. Marxist theories and what not. If I really want to go into my theoretical track, why not? But I might not be cut out for it. I don't know.

One thing I learnt by looking through other people's research topic is the idea of "alternative paradigms and alternative systems". Also Fortmann's name keep popping up at the ones where I'm interested in. Peluso as well. Hart is also on my radar. Why all women? Hmmm