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
梁凯欣 (xin.sg)












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?