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: Refreshed industry map to support Singapore's hub status in food manufacturing

Refreshed road map aims to build resilient, sustainable firms in food manufacturing sector

Building resilient and sustainable companies will be key in the food manufacturing sector in the coming years, with the move unveiled as one of four key pillars of a refreshed road map for the industry.

This comes as businesses here have experienced – and continue to cope with – supply chain disruptions and rising business costs, linked to global events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The refreshed road map – the Food Manufacturing Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025 – will also align companies to seize opportunities in growth sectors such as sustainability and alternative proteins.

Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng, who launched the refreshed ITM on Wednesday, said Singapore has seen an “increase in vulnerabilities” because of fluctuations in food supply and prices, brought on by the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and energy crisis.

“We want to encourage our companies to enhance their supply chain resilience through source diversification, stockpiling of key ingredients upstream, and at the same time making sure they are well integrated, as well as enhancing production capabilities,” said Dr Tan at the opening of Sin Mui Heng Food Industries’ new factory at Bedok Food City.

“With the growing focus on sustainability globally, we will work with trade associations and chambers to encourage companies to take on green manufacturing practices across the food value chain, such as adoption of resource-efficient technologies, food waste reduction and upcycling, and the use of sustainable packaging.”

Dr Tan added that the Singapore Food Alliance – made up of eight food-related trade associations here – will develop a sustainability road map with support from Enterprise Singapore.

The refreshed ITM, developed by EnterpriseSG in collaboration with key industry players and other government agencies, also aims to establish Singapore as a trusted food and nutrition leader and the preferred launchpad into Asia for quality brands.

It will continue to focus on driving internationalisation and innovation among local companies – also a key pillar in the previous ITM launched in 2016 – while trying to build Singapore as a regional food hub and creating quality jobs for locals through a Jobs Transformation Map (JTM).

While Covid-19 had some impact on the original ITM where the Government wanted to drive significant momentum in automation and digitalisation, Dr Tan pointed out that there has also been significant uncertainties in the geopolitical climate. Some examples he cited include supply chain disruptions, tensions in Sino-US trade, and the Russia-Ukraine war.

“All of these things have also allowed us to re-examine some of the existing strategies, allowing us to refresh, refine and tweak them, which is actually what we always do on a continuous basis,” he said.

The sector has seen good progress since the first ITM, EnterpriseSG noted. Domestic exports have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 3.3 per cent from 2016 to 2019, while food manufacturers have undertaken close to 480 projects to drive automation and operational excellence.

The sector contributed about $4 billion to Singapore’s economy and employed about 51,000 workers in 2020, an increase from the $3.7 billion and 40,000 workers in 2015.

With countries reopening their borders following the Covid-19 pandemic, the first pillar in the new road map will seek to help companies expand overseas through initiatives such as a handbook for those new to expansion abroad, participation in trade shows and matching activities with buyers globally.

Companies will also get to access an expanded network of local and international partners to strengthen their research and development and innovation capabilities, so that they can enter new business segments such as alternative proteins and elderly nutrition.

Another key thrust will see the strengthening of Singapore as a regional food hub, with many global food manufacturing brands and start-ups already setting up their Asian base and testing ground for new products here. EnterpriseSG will work with such companies and other partners to build consumer insights into regional markets, which in turn supports the development of products that are relevant for Asia.

The last cornerstone will see the evolution of the workforce in the food manufacturing industry through the JTM, developed by EnterpriseSG, the Ministry of Manpower and Workforce Singapore.

The JTM identifies the trends and impact on key jobs within the sector over the next three to five years and recommends strategies for companies to enhance the capabilities of their talent pool.

“An interconnected ecosystem backed by strong partnerships with local establishments and overseas food hubs will be crucial for the food manufacturing sector to thrive, innovate and scale,” said Mr Chen Kok Sing, co-chair of the Future Economy Council’s advanced manufacturing and trade cluster.

“I hope that food manufacturers will tap the resources available in the ITM to grow and transform and seize opportunities in this competitive environment.”

Sin Mui Heng Food Industries, which exports 20 per cent of its products, hopes to reach 50 per cent in the next five years.

Under the refreshed ITM, the company hopes to tap EnterpriseSG’s resources and participate in trade shows to connect with industry partners abroad, said its director of operations Johnson Tay.

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.