Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press conference for the sectoral company visit to KH Roberts

Opening remarks by Minister Chan Chun Sing at the press conference for the sectoral company visit to KH Roberts

1.           Good morning to all of you. This week, Minister Josephine Teo and myself will be talking about the food industry. Let me first begin by thanking KH Roberts for hosting us today. This is my second time here - the last time I was here was during their 50th anniversary in 2018. And today, I am very happy to see that the company has grown from strength to strength, employing more people, and creating better quality jobs along the way. And later, we will talk a bit more about how the industry has grown and why it is a critical part of our journey.

2.           Now, let me take a step back and explain why we are talking about this industry. This industry has grown steadily over the years. In fact, during the COVID situation, the food manufacturing industry has become even more important. As compared to the past, I think more people are now more conscious od the need for food security, and the resilience of the supply chains. And this is where we can build on our strengths and actually do even better than before. So, if you look at pre-COVID, say from 2013 to 2018, the Compounded Annual Growth Rate of the sector has been about 6.45%. This is quite a good rate of growth achieved by food manufacturing as a sector.

3.           Of course, during the circuit breaker period, there was a bit of a softening of the performance. But from what we have heard, the industry has continued on its growth trajectory. Because more than ever before, with the growing Asian middle-class market, the demand for good quality food comes with other higher demands. In the past, it was about quality, and now, it is also about assurance, and supply chain resilience. All these will play to Singapore's strengths, and we think that there's a bright future for this industry to create many more jobs for our people.

4.           To meet the growing demands for high quality food products, the industry has also been expanding its employment and creating new jobs for Singaporeans. But let me explain also that the food manufacturing industry is not just about the production itself; in the entire global value chain for this industry, we have different parts which Singapore can play a critical role, which are not so easily displaced by others

5.           Upstream, we are working on both the agri-tech and the R&D fronts. This is where it gives us a unique competitive advantage, where we combine our R&D research from the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) with the commercial companies. And in this particular company (KH Roberts), you will also see one example of this combination of the R&D upstream with the production downstream, and their partnership with the Singapore Institute of Technology.

6.           Beyond the upstream about agri-tech and food tech, where we are developing new innovative solutions to meet the new needs of the consumers - for example, now, there is a lot of interest in alternative proteins, and  new kinds of flavours. This requires a lot of R&D, in order to produce the kind of quality and  flavours that the industry needs. These are also very high-end research and production capabilities that Singapore can build up.

7.           In the downstream, when the final production actually takes place, a lot of it has to do with the assurance of the quality. This is especially so in a COVID world, where people are very conscious about food security and the conditions of the products that comes with it. This is not just about competing on price. In fact, many of the products in Singapore compete on the basis of the quality, and there is a premium to the kind of quality products that comes with the Singapore brand.

8.           This Singapore brand of quality is something that we promote, and we work on very carefully because it is an entire ecosystem. Going forward, beyond competing on the prices, and the supply chain resilience, this Singapore brand mark will be very important for our local food brands. This is why in the coming months, we will enhance the positioning of this brand mark. This will provide assurance to buyers of a product’s quality and allow our companies and products to command a premium in the international market.

9.           This focus on quality will also be a key differentiator for the Singapore food industry going forward. We will further amplify this brand to make sure that consumer interest and the purchase of local brands will be enhanced, not just in the Singapore market, but also in the overseas market. This brand mark will include products in the F&B, fashion and accessories, beauty and wellness, homewear and décor, and through this, we hope to grow an appreciation for the authenticity of our products. So we want to promote this Singapore brand mark in the coming months to make sure that our Singaporean brands stand out locally, and amongst the international competition.

10.         So we see a bright future for the Singapore food industry – we see ourselves being able to value-add and entrench our value-add at critical parts of the global value chain. That will allow us to not only have an expanding market, but it will also strengthen our own domestic food resilience, which has come to a fore as a very important issue, especially during this COVID pandemic. This is not just about one or two companies per se, but very importantly, this is about an entire ecosystem, of which there are many SMEs in this industry as well, employing many Singaporeans creating many good jobs.

11.         With that, I invite Minister Teo to give you a sense of the employment landscape in the food manufacturing industry.

* The session continued with remarks by Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo and CEO of KH Roberts Dr Peter Ong, who were on the panel as well.

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