This month I’m writing from Singapore, where I’ve just spent the first three days of my Nuffield Global Focus Programme.
Over the next six weeks, I will be learning about all things agriculture as I tour Asia, Europe and the US.
It’s been fascinating learning about Singapore. This tiny city country of 720sq km is home to 5.5 million people and is one of the largest commodity trading centres in the world, despite not having an agricultural sector of its own. Even though it doesn’t produce anything, Singapore’s exports are worth 177% of GDP, staggering compared to the UK’s 27%.
There are a number of factors that have contributed to Singapore’s establishment as a trading hub. Chief among them is the fact it is the gateway to the rest of Asia, with key commodity markets all within a seven-hour flight, including China, to where 30% of all exports from Singapore are destined.
The country also has a strong AAA credit rating, a banking environment which provides traders with easy access to financing and an efficient and reliable legal system.
Something I always make sure to do when I’m abroad is visit a supermarket to look at the produce on offer – you can learn a lot about the consumer trends in the region. So I spent some time looking around a supermarket called Cold Storage. I found a couple of fairly large sections dedicated to organic produce, imported mostly from Australia and New Zealand, since organic farming is not something that has taken off in Asia. The availability of organic food here reflects the healthy income of Singapore’s inhabitants.
I also found numerous British brands, including Wykes Farm cheese and almost an entire aisle of Waitrose produce.
Of course, I also had a look at what pork was available – there were chops, mince, belly strips, leg steaks, collar steaks, pork fillets, loin medallions, back bacon, ham and baked ham joints. Most of it was from Australia and clearly labelled as such, although I did also find some Danish bacon. They also had sausages, including one packet labelled as ‘British bangers’ with the small print stating they were a ‘product of Singapore’, which of course they weren’t, considering there are no farms in Singapore!
The Singapore people, like UK consumers, clearly also seek convenience. I found numerous value-added marinated meat products and the butchery counter also offered a ‘free marination service’ with jars of seasoning mixes on display to choose from.
Singapore has been captivating and I’m looking forward to visiting other parts of Asia.
Next stop, the Philippines!