17 July 12 The Straits Times by NG KAI LING
THE call has gone out to vegetable importers to look beyond Malaysia and China for Singapore's supply of greens.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan recommends sourcing for them from Indonesia.
In a post in his blog, he noted that China's cheaper greens have come into Singapore in larger volumes, while imports from Indonesia have fallen.
The price difference between Chinese and Indonesian vegetables has influenced import volumes, he said.
'Pricing is one huge factor. The difference between Chinese and Indonesian potatoes is about $0.40 to $0.65 per kg. This price differential is not small.'
Vegetables imported from Indonesia include cabbage, French beans, watercress and shallots.
Last year, 43 per cent of the greens here came from Malaysia, 29 per cent from China and only 4 per cent from Indonesia. India, Australia and Thailand also supply greens to Singapore.
Mr Khaw said there is potential for Indonesia to increase its vegetable exports here if prices can be made more competitive. The Indonesia-Singapore Agri-Business Working Group will look into how this can be done by: Identifying bottlenecks in exporting from Indonesia; Mapping production sites, logistics routes and facilities for key Indonesian provinces; Exchanging information with Indonesian vegetable farmers on the types of vegetables preferred here and on the sources of seeds for them; Holding more promotion fairs with supermarket retailers to showcase Indonesian agri-produce.
Ultimately, consumers stand to benefit, said Mr Khaw. 'Diversified sources mean that they will have a larger basket to choose from. With added competition, prices for some vegetables will come down too.'
Recently, the Singapore Fruits & Vegetables Importers & Exporters Association and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority sent representatives on a study trip to Medan in Indonesia.
Association vice-chairman Law Song Nam said importers tend not to bring in Indonesian greens such as cai xin because they are not as good as those from China and Malaysia.
A lack of Indonesian vegetable exporters is another factor, he said. 'In my more than 20 years in the business, I've worked with only a handful of suppliers. There's not much development in the business.'
In recent years, supermarket chain FairPrice has inked contracts with Indonesian farms to supply vegetables to its outlets. This includes a deal with Horti Jaya farm in Medan for a weekly 50- tonne supply of greens such as cai xin, xiao bai cai, bai cai and kai lan.