Inflation? Grow your own food

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 30 Jun 11;

SINGAPORE: Future global food demand is expected to increase by some 70 per cent by 2050.

That's according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The organisation said more sustainable farming efforts are needed to feed what is expected to be a nine-billion 2050 population.

In addition, with rapidly growing global population, and supply playing catch up, inflationary pressures continue to hang over most rice bowls in Asia.

In Singapore, a social enterprise with global backing is looking to help community members come back to their roots, and at the same time combat inflation on a small scale.

Singapore is renowned for its greenery, but perhaps not its urban farming.

In North West Singapore, however, efforts are under way to get people and corporates to come back down to the ground to plant food and to experience food sustainability.

In Singapore, as with most of Asian economies, food prices have continued on a steady rise.

In May food prices rose 2.8 per cent on-year due to more expensive prepared meals and ingredients.

The founders behind the social project ComCrop said it can even go a small way in combating inflation.

Alpha Biofuels chief executive director Allan Lim said: "In a way, I feel that we may not be able to counter the global inflation and food prices.

"But let's say if we have 200 of such farms and we have about 200 in Singapore, big and small, and every one of them grows some kind of herb. And these herbs, like chilli, and spices, when the food prices go up, the neighbourhood could actually just come down and grab the chillies and go back and cook.

"You don't really need your hard earned money in the supermarkets buying these.

"So if we could concentrate on growing a single kind of crop, or two, three kinds of crops, and this could become sustainable and then the residents could actually use these.

"We could effectively counter a little bit of the inflation but we couldn't solve the inflation problem".

The project has won the support of globally renowned UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall who said more of such farms should be set up in every country.

Ms Goodall said that such sustainable and even organic farming is achievable to support perhaps even global demand.

"I truly believe that organic farming, if it gets the government behind it, if it doesn't have to compete with agro business -- which right now it does -- you know it might cost a little bit more but there will be much less waste, it will be valued," Ms Goodall said.

"It will taste good, it will make us healthier, and we probably save on our doctors' bills because there's absolutely no questions but then lots of our problems got to do with the residue, pesticides and fertilisers".

It is estimated that the world needs to invest a US$209 billion in agriculture in developing countries to support demand by 2050.