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.