Best of our wild blogs: 1 Feb 15

Life History of the Common Four Ring
from Butterflies of Singapore

Quiet Days in The Nature Reserve
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Night Walk At Venus Drive (30 Jan 2015)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Macro Photography Outings – January 2015
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

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New task force tasked to promote locally grown and reared foods to eateries, supermarkets

AUDREY TAN Straits Times 1 Feb 15;

Mealtimes in Singapore could soon have a stronger local flavour, as the authorities ramp up efforts to encourage consumers and businesses to buy more local produce.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) last month set up a local-produce task force to create greater awareness and promote the demand of key food items that have been grown, harvested or reared in Singapore, The Sunday Times has learnt.

It aims to work with stakeholders such as supermarkets, farmers and restaurants to "address challenges (and) develop and implement strategies for the promotion of local produce", which includes eggs, vegetables and fish.

Strategies being discussed include public education and outreach activities, such as community events and promotional campaigns at supermarkets and food and beverage (F&B) outlets, the AVA said in response to queries.

The FairPrice supermarket chain and the Restaurant Association of Singapore, which has over 300 members accounting for more than 1,600 F&B outlets, said that price was one challenge in getting people to buy local.

Said the association's executive director Lim Rui Shan: "The perception is that local produce is generally priced higher than similar produce from the region... (which) could be due to relatively higher production and operating costs."

But Mr Kenny Eng, president of farmer coalition Kranji Countryside Association, pointed out that prices are higher as local farms' produce meets only a small percentage of Singapore's food demand.

He added: "Instead of looking at price, we should also consider how local produce is safe and fresh. Foreign imports usually take at least one or two days to come into Singapore."

The task force is AVA's latest initiative to cultivate the local food scene here.

Last year, it doled out $1.25 million to help farmers produce more fish. In 2009, it also launched the Food Fund, which boosts farmers' productivity by co-funding investments in automation, mechanisation, research and development, and farm capability upgrading.

The AVA said that local food production "plays a supporting role in ensuring food supply resilience", serving as a buffer in case of sudden import disruptions.

"While AVA works with local farmers to boost production and capability, AVA also works with the industry to promote local produce to consumers," said its spokesman.

Mr Victor Chai, director of fresh and frozen products at FairPrice's purchasing and merchandising department, said the supermarket has worked with AVA on initiatives that promote local produce, such as the SGFish label that distinguishes locally farmed fish from imports.

"Over the years, we have noticed increasing demand for locally produced foods as shoppers begin to appreciate the benefits," said Mr Chai.

Sales of locally farmed red snapper, grey mullet and black tilapia fish, for instance, have shot up by about 50 per cent, Mr Chai added.

The all-local Kranji Countryside Farmers' Market, too, has drawn more visitors and sold more produce.

Its third and latest edition last month drew an 8,000-strong crowd, up from the 4,000 guests it welcomed in the first fair last June.

This month, a new initiative by four students from the Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information is aimed at getting more people to eat local produce.

The students will collaborate with 10 F&B outlets, including Plonk, afterglow, East 8 and Portico, which are supporting local produce, such as by sourcing from local farms.

Said one of the students, Ms Jamie Foo, 22: "Singapore brands itself as a foodie nation, with eating as the national pastime. But for a country that eats so much, we actually produce very little... We should look more at the food we produce."

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Malaysia: Johor to control export of five types of fish

YEE XIANG YUN The Star 1 Feb 15;

JOHOR BARU: The state will be restricting the export of five types of fish, especially to Singapore, in view of the coming Chinese New Year celebration.

This was to ensure that there was sufficient supply of cencaru (torpedo scad), selar (yellowtail scad), kembong (short mackerel), pelaling (Indian mackerel) and selayang (round scad) in Johor, said state Johor Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries exco Ismail Mohamed.

“We also want to be sure that the price of the controlled items will not go up as a result of a low supply during the festive season,” he said after attending the state-level celebration of Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority’s (Fama) 30th anniversary at the Larkin pasar tani here yesterday.

He said they would be working with the Immigration Department on the matter to ensure that enforcement would be carried out at the checkpoints, adding that other fresh produce was sufficient to meet demands during the festive season.

On another matter, Ismail said the state was planning to build a RM2.5mil permanent market to provide a better trading environment for traders and customers.

The permanent pasar tani – the fourth nationwide and the second in the state – would house traders from the Larkin pasar tani when it opens by the end of next year at an area opposite the state Fama building along Jalan Taruka, Kawasan Perindustrian Larkin.

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Animal facility to be built in Choa Chu Kang

It will replace AVA's existing Pasir Panjang centre
AUDREY TAN Straits Times 31 Jan 15;

A new animal facility will be built in Sungei Tengah in Choa Chu Kang to replace the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore's (AVA) Centre for Animal Welfare and Control in Pasir Panjang.

Sungei Tengah is set to be an area with an animal focus - a number of shelters and pet farms are being relocated there, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is moving there at the end of this year.

AVA is looking to develop its centre to hold animals and conduct educational activities, according to tender documents obtained by The Straits Times. The new facility will sit on 0.4ha of land, and it will have amenities such as an animal holding area and a quarantine area - which includes a treatment room and an exercise yard - as well as an animal claim area. An education centre with an assembly area, and seminar and activity rooms will also be part of the complex.

"This project is to relocate the existing animal facility to enable AVA to continue to provide essential public services in terms of animal population management, and prevent the spread of animal diseases to safeguard public health," AVA said in the tender documents.

"This facility will be designed to allow access to the public for education purposes, claiming of lost pets and facilitate rehoming efforts."

The authority's existing facility at 75, Pasir Panjang Road is 20 years old. Asked why it is moving, AVA's reply was that the new facility "is to replace the current animal facility located at Pasir Panjang".

Animal welfare groups welcomed the relocation, saying it would allow for closer cooperation with AVA when shelters move there in about two years, when their leases in Pasir Ris run out.

Said Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group SOSD: "It sounds like the AVA is expanding the centre, which is good because the current one is quite old."

However, Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo said: "The location of the upcoming centre is off the beaten track, so when shelters move to the area, the authorities could look at improving the transport infrastructure in the area."

Pet adoption the highlight at AVA pet ownership roadshow
Channel NewsAsia 31 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) held its first Responsible Pet Ownership roadshow for the year on Saturday (Jan 31).

The agency is taking a different approach for its pet ownership campaign, focusing on encouraging individuals to consider adoption first when getting a pet. AVA hopes more individuals can learn about responsible pet ownership, before they bring a pet home.

About 100 different animals from 10 participating Animal Welfare Groups were put up for adoption at the roadshow. AVA says it will be holding "a few" collective adoption drives with the welfare groups this year.

In support of the event, 124 members of the public also dressed up as "cats". The activity also broke the Singapore Book of Record's "Largest Gathering of People with Cat Faces".

A "Cat Walk" was also held as part of the event, where more than 10 furballs strutted their stuff on the runway.

- CNA/ec

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