Best of our wild blogs: 11-12 Dec 17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 29 October 2017
Singapore Bird Group

Soxy sea creatures: Echinoderm edition
wild shores of singapore

Moult of Mottled Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus albolineatus) @ Marina South
Monday Morgue

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Fire breaks out at Shell's Pulau Bukom unit; no injuries reported

Channel NewsAsia 10 Dec 17

SINGAPORE: A fire broke out on Sunday (Dec 10) at a Shell facility in Pulau Bukom at about 10am, a Shell spokesperson confirmed, adding that the fire was extinguished by firefighters at the site.

No injuries were reported, the spokesperson added.

“We can confirm that a fire occurred at one of our units at the Pulau Bukom Manufacturing Site at around 10am today. The fire has been extinguished by the site’s firefighters.

"There are no reported injuries. The relevant authorities have been notified. We are investigating the cause of the incident," the statement said.

In an updated statement at about 7pm, the spokesperson said that all personnel at the site have been accounted for.

"Currently, we do not expect any impact on our customers," the statement added.

UPDATE 1-Shell says fire extinguished at Singapore refinery-petchem plant
Reuters 11 Dec 17;
* Shell says investigating cause of fire
* Does not expect any impact on customers (Adds detail on production capacity)

SINGAPORE, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell said a fire at its Singapore refinery-petrochemical site was extinguished on Sunday and no one was hurt in the incident.

The fire occurred at one of its manufacturing units on Bukom Island at about 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) and was extinguished shortly after by the site’s firefighters, a company spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.

Shell was investigating the cause of the incident and did not expect any impact on its customers, she said.

Shell did not specify which unit had been affected.

The Bukom site, Shell’s largest wholly-owned plant, has a 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery and a steam cracker that produces more than 900,000 tonnes of ethylene a year. (Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Paul Tait and Joseph Radford)

Shell Singapore's petrochemical plants not affected by Sunday fire: sources
Singapore (Platts) 11 Dec 17;

A fire that broke out Sunday at Shell Singapore's complex did not affect its petrochemical plants, market sources said Tuesday.

It was said to have impacted a refinery and gasoil production, they said, though Shell in a statement only confirmed that a fire had broken out at its refinery on Pulau Bukom Island around 10 am on Sunday.

"It was extinguished shortly after by firefighters. No injuries were reported and all personnel at the site have been accounted for," Shell said in the statement.

The company's integrated complex at Bukom has a crude distillation capacity of 500,000 b/d. It is Shell's largest refinery in the world in terms of crude distillation capacity. The site also houses a mixed-feed cracker that can produce 800,000 mt/year of ethylene and a 155,000 mt/year butadiene extraction unit.

"The relevant authorities have been notified and we are investigating the cause of the incident. The safety of the community and our personnel remain our top priority. Currently, we do not expect any impact on our customers," the statement added.

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Retailers helping to reduce food waste

Supermarkets, food manufacturers catering to customers who want smaller portions
Yunita Ong The New Paper 12 Dec 17;

Supermarkets and retailers are helping consumers buy just the amount they need and tackling the problem of food waste in Singapore in the process.

A National Environment Agency household waste study released recently of 443 homes found that food waste comprises about half, or roughly 2.5kg, of the waste tossed out by each Singapore home.

Over half agreed food retailers and manufacturers could help reduce food wastage, by packaging food into smaller portions at supermarkets, for instance.

Supermarkets and food manufacturers told TNP that they have made moves to cater to customers who want smaller portions.

Sheng Siong usually sells its fresh fruits packed in portions of 200g to 300g and pre-packed fish and meat in 200g to 400g to cater to small families.

A spokesman said: "Some fresh foods are pre-packed... (for) the preservation of freshness and shelf life, and reduction of food wastage caused by inappropriate handling by consumers."

FairPrice said it has not noticed a significant shift in demand for smaller packaging, but its Value Fresh range of vegetables at FairPrice Shop is available in smaller, more wallet-friendly portions.

Cold Storage's ready-to-eat meals and "pick n mix" salads are tailored on average to a portion size for two people to best serve small families and busy professionals, said a spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs Giant and Cold Storage.

"We also look at promotional effectiveness to ensure we sell what customers want and at the portion/size that they prefer."

While the 640ml soy sauce bottle is Tai Hua Food Industries' best-selling product, sales of its 320ml version have been "growing fast" in the last few years, said managing director Thomas Pek.

Mr Pek expects an increase in sales by 20 per cent for the product this year. He said: "We think this is due to reasons such as change in family size and consumers' cooking patterns as younger people do not cook so much now."

Ms Jennifer See, general manager of F&N Foods, said: "To consume milk at its freshest, it should be bought in quantities that mirror the household's consumption level as consumption levels vary among families."

Different portion sizes offer consumers more flexibility.

One shopper TNP spoke to, Mr Cyrill Binder, 29, buys perishable foods like meat and bread in smaller portions as he cooks mostly for himself.

He said: "I am quite particular about what I buy, so I seldom throw away food."

Supermarkets minimise food waste in other ways. Sheng Siong and FairPrice sell fruits and vegetables with blemishes and bruises at a discount.

Cold Storage and Giant mark down soon-to-expire foods. Cold Storage offers discounts on its fresh foods at the end of the day.

A Dairy Farm spokesman said: "There are also processes in place to monitor expiry dates and stock levels to ensure we minimise wastage."

FairPrice said the chain adopts "a holistic and sustainable approach towards tackling the issue of food waste on multiple fronts," including public education and donating unsold food to charities.

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Harbouring ambition: 3 questions you may have about Singapore's ports moving to Tuas

Straits Times 10 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - By 2040, the megaport currently being constructed at Tuas will be completed. All of Singapore's container port operations - including those at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel, Brani and Pasir Panjang - will be moved to Tuas, in the west.

The multi-billion dollar project at Tuas will increase the port's capacity to 65 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo - more than double what the port handled last year.

The move comes as Singapore looks to maintain its position as the world's busiest transshipment hub - in the face of keen competition from other ports in the region.

This week, Insight gives readers on a behind-the-scenes look at the story of Tuas port - including three questions you may have about the move to Tuas.

Tuas has sheltered deep waters that are suitable for port operations. It is also close to both international shipping routes and industrial areas in Jurong.

Placing all port activities in one location in Tuas will boost efficiency by reducing the distance and complexity of transporting container boxes between terminals - which is currently being done, for example, between Keppel and Pasir Panjang.

It will also reduce road congestion caused by the trucks transporting containers.

As port operations expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, government agencies debated over whether to locate the new port terminal at Pasir Panjang or at Tuas.

Moving to Tuas had its advantages - including that of locating heavy infrastructure further away from the city. But expanding into Pasir Panjang would mean the new terminal would be closer and better connected to the city terminals. The debate concluded in 1992, with the decision to build the terminal in Pasir Panjang.

But discussions re-opened after 2010, and Tuas was eventually approved as the location to which all port terminals would move.

Said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a 2015 speech: "We looked at Tuas before, we were not ready. Since then we have made more reclamation in Tuas and we have looked at it again and this time we think we can do a really first class port from scratch in Tuas."

Land freed up by port terminals near the city and in Pasir Panjang will be available for redevelopment - including 925 hectares of valuable waterfront land.

In 2013, the Urban Redevelopment Authority unveiled plans to redevelop the land into an area called the Greater Southern Waterfront.

The new waterfront city will have mixed uses, from housing and commercial to cultural and entertainment - although the Government has not decided whether to include public housing.

Plans for the first, 44ha plot - a housing development on the plot of land occupied by Keppel Club - will be ready in one to two years' time. An exhibition will be held to solicit feedback from the public.

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First company to get enhanced green label certification for its products

Jose Hong Straits Times 12 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - Only one company so far has been successful in getting its products certified under the stricter guidelines of an enhanced green labelling scheme by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

Consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark Professional, which produces items such as Scott tissues, was the only company whose products were awarded the enhanced green label, out of a total of 13 companies that had applied.

Two companies linked to the haze that had affected Singapore previously applied but are still awaiting certification. They are Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (April).

On Tuesday (Dec 12), the SEC announced the products awarded the enhanced green label at an event at One Farrer Hotel and Spa.

Twelve items from Kimberly-Clark Professional were awarded this label under the SEC scheme, which helps consumers choose environmentally friendly products.

SEC chairman Isabella Loh said: "Companies which apply for SEC's eco-certification programmes go through a stringent audit process to assess their environmental performance... That's why achieving an eco-certification is both a significant achievement and an important milestone."

In January, the council launched the enhanced eco-labelling scheme for pulp and paper products, in response to the haze problem. In 2015, for instance, Singapore had suffered its worst haze on record.

Under the scheme's stricter rules, firms have to ensure that there is no burning on plantations, and that they quickly detect and put out fires when they occur.

Tuesday's event also saw the launch of a revamped SEC Green Map App that lets people know where the nearest recycling points are, as well as upcoming green activities such as beach cleanups.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli spoke at the event as the guest of honour.

SEC awards first enhanced green label to Kimberly-Clark
SIAU MING EN Today Online 12 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — Consumer goods firm Kimberly-Clark became the first company to have 12 of its pulp and paper products certified by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) under the enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme.

The scheme, revised in January, holds firms responsible for ensuring that in the production of their goods, there is proper management of peatland and fires, for instance.

Kimberly-Clark, the only company that qualified so far out of 13 applicants for the certification, produces brands such as Kleenex and Scott. The 12 certified products include hand and kitchen towels, tissue paper, napkins and toilet paper.

Announcing this at the SEC Eco-Certifications Appreciation Lunch event on Tuesday (Dec 12), the council said that the applications by the other 12 companies — including Fuji Xerox, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, and Asia Pulp & Paper Group — are still being processed.

Some of the stricter criteria that applicants have to meet include full disclosure of a product’s supply chain and the measures the company uses to detect and suppress fires on plantations when they occur. They also need to have proper management of peatland, where they are required to protect the biodiversity of peatlands through proper assessment and water management.

The more stringent standards are benchmarked against international eco-labelling schemes in Australia, the European Union, Japan and New Zealand.

An SEC spokesperson said that each certified product will be subjected to ground audits and reference checks on the company’s forestry practices. They will also be subjected to annual and periodic ground surveillance audits to ensure compliance, which can be conducted by SEC’s audit partners.

SEC’s chairman Isabella Loh said that the applicants are also profiled according to how much risk they pose to the environment — from their supply chain to the distribution and sale of products — which affects whether their products will get the certification.

More checks may be conducted based on the risk profile of the company’s products.

The certification for the new label is costlier at S$4,600 per product and lasts for three years, subject to a yearly audit.

Previously, certification costs S$1,500 for the first year and had to be renewed yearly for S$1,000. Fifteen companies offering about 30 pulp and paper products are on the old scheme, which will be phased out by July next year.

Even with the tougher standards and higher cost, Ms Loh said that more applicants from more countries, such as Brazil, Eastern Europe and the Nordic nations, have applied to get their products certified under the enhanced label.

The Singapore Green Labelling Scheme endorses industrial and consumer products that have less undesirable effects on the environment. It certifies products that are sold both in Singapore and other countries.

During the haze episode in 2015, the council suspended the use of its Green Label on Asia Pulp & Paper Group’s products, while some supermarket chains stopped selling paper products sourced from the group.

For consumers, Ms Loh said that buying pulp and paper products with the enhanced label is one way for them to “take their personal, most effective action on climate change”. When they buy such products, they are also rewarding companies which are doing the right thing and manufacturing sustainably, she added.

Mr Anuj Sinha, Kimberly-Clark Professional’s general manager for the region, said that the company applied for the latest certification to help customers make informed decisions.

“More and more so in today’s world, we notice that our customers tend to make decisions based on third-party accreditation… (The enhanced label) helps us demonstrate the environmental stewardship of our production process, that we have proper controls in place to avoid pollution, minimise the use of resources and reduce waste,” he added.

The company first received the SEC certification in 2012. After Tuesday, most of its products will be certified under the new scheme.

At the event on Tuesday, the council also launched a mobile application, the SEC Green Map, It provides information on nearby “green assets”, such as places to recycle e-waste, parks and nature reserves, eco-friendly food and beverage outlets, upcoming green activities, and other resources.

By the second half of next year, SEC plans to improve the app such that it can track the user’s carbon footprint. The app can be downloaded on the Google Play Store and will be available on the Apple App Store before Christmas.

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Coffee waste to help produce biodegradable plastics

LOUISA TANG Today Online 11 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — One day, the waste generated from the cup of coffee you are drinking from the hawker centre could be used to make more eco-friendly plastic bags, thanks to a team of Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) scientists.

Dr Henry Leung, a senior lecturer and senior specialist at NYP’s School of Chemical and Life Sciences, has found a more sustainable way to turn coffee waste into biodegradable plastic.

“This adds value to the coffee waste that hawkers usually just throw away, creating environmental issues,” Dr Leung told reporters at a media briefing on Monday (Dec 11).

Incinerating coffee waste consumes large amounts of energy and it also requires large storage areas. In 2011, 7 million tonnes of coffee waste was generated globally.

In the method used by the NYP team, water and bacteria are first added to the coffee waste. The blend found in Singapore coffee shops, termed “Nanyang coffee”, is traditionally roasted with butter and sugar, which provide natural nutrients for the bacteria to grow.

The mixture is then allowed to sit for seven to 10 days. When the bacteria consumes the coffee waste and multiplies rapidly, it produces a chemical that scientists extract — specifically, a biopolymer called PHA. This chemical can then be used to produce biodegradable plastic.

The team decided to use the Cupriavidus necator bacteria because it is the “easiest to handle” among the common PHA-producing bacteria, Dr Leung explained. It can also work at room temperature and does not need fancy temperature controls, which will use more energy.

At first, the researchers were disappointed with the purity of the PHA yield when using the bacteria, Dr Leung disclosed. For example, from 100g of coffee waste, they were able to get 0.5g to 2.5g of pure PHA.

When using the typical heavy solvents to extract the PHA, they could only achieve 30 per cent purity, and produced organic waste in the process as well.

They then switched to using environment-friendly and more soluble organic solvents in the form of acetone and an alkaline chemical solvent. These do not produce more waste, and are also 50 per cent cheaper than heavy solvents.

However, the team ran into another problem: These eco-friendly solvents normally do not produce as much yield as their heavy counterparts.

So they decided to genetically modify the bacteria and managed to counteract the problem, ending up with a purity yield of more than 50 per cent. Out of 100g of coffee waste, they can now get roughly 1g to 3g of pure PHA.

PHA is more beneficial to the environment because they take a shorter time to decompose and release fewer toxic compounds in the process, compared with the traditional polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in plastic products. PVC is the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer.

Dr Leung said that the team has completed its laboratory experiments, which began in 2013. They are now looking for industrial partners — such as plastic manufacturers — to expand the project, and are looking to commercialise the process in three to five years.

Similar projects using coffee waste have been conducted in other countries such as Hong Kong and South Korea, but Dr Leung said that only one company in Australia is doing it on a commercial scale.

“The big dream is that, one day, far in the future, we won’t need to use PVC at all to make plastic products,” he added.

Poly scientists find cheaper way to make greener plastics
Coffee-eating bacteria can help cut the cost of making biodegradable plastics by half
Jose Hong Straits Times 12 Dec 17;

Scientists in Singapore have found a process that can potentially produce biodegradable plastics at half the cost and in a manner that is less harmful to the environment.

While promising, it is still early days for the project, which may come to fruition only in three to five years, said Dr Henry Leung, leader of the research team from Nanyang Polytechnic, yesterday.

The breakthrough in making "greener" plastics involves using new bacteria and solvents like acetone.

The bacteria, Cupriavidus necator, eat nutrients in coffee waste and store them as a chemical called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA).

When the solvent is added, the bacteria die and release the PHA, which is used for making plastics that are environmentally friendly, said Dr Leung, 42, a senior specialist in pharmacology and toxicology and a senior lecturer at the polytechnic's school of chemical and life sciences.

The PHA helps degrade plastics more swiftly, he added.

This will lead to fewer plastic products such as bottles and bags clogging waterways and being eaten by animals, such as sea turtles and birds.


One day, these degradable products could even replace microbeads in personal care products.

DR HENRY LEUNG, leader of the research team from Nanyang Polytechnic, on the harmful spheres found in facial washes.

He also said such degradable products could one day replace microbeads in personal care products. Microbeads are tiny plastic balls found in beauty products like exfoliating facial washes.

When washed out to sea from drains, these can kill marine life and be harmful to people.

The making of PHA also pollutes the environment because the solvents typically used, like hexane, are more pollutive than acetone.

But the current process of producing PHA is very pricey, with 1g of PHA being sold at $28,000, said Dr Leung. He estimates his method of producing PHA would cost about half as much.

The way coffee is produced in Singapore also helps to save on costs, Dr Leung said.

"Coffee beans are roasted with sugar and butter, and these are enough to give the bacteria energy to produce PHA," he added.

His efforts join the growing global push for better ways to make plastics. For instance, they can be made from plant starch, which can degrade harmlessly and quickly. However, such sustainable plastics make up only 10 per cent of the whole plastics market, reported a Nature news article last year.

As team member Alvin Teo, 49, a senior lecturer in molecular biotechnology, said: "The project is in a very exploratory stage. It's up to industry players to see how far we can take this."

The next step for the team is to find business partners such as coffee companies and plastic manufacturers, as well as partner other researchers to improve the process and get it ready for the market, added Dr Leung.

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Nanovaccine works swimmingly for fish

New method, faster than injection, involves dipping fish in water containing the solution
Samantha Boh Straits Times 11 Dec 17;

The traditional way of protecting fish against disease is to inject them individually with a vaccine.

But this can be time-consuming and manpower-intensive.

Singapore researchers have come up with a way around this - using a tiny nano material.

They have found a way to package a vaccine for a common bacterium in tropical waters, tenacibaculum maritimum, into a material 100,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. The bacterium causes the scales of infected fish to fall off and their mouths to disintegrate.

The new method will allow fish farmers to vaccinate their fish stocks by immersing them in a container of water containing the "nanovaccine". It then enters the fish through their gills and skin.

"There is no need for skilled workers, and fewer workers are needed... making it cheaper," said Dr Jeffrey Seng, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Chemical and Life Sciences. He led the development of the nanovaccine.

With vaccination, fish do not need to be fed antibiotics when they are sick, reducing the chance of drug residues reaching humans.


The current method is very tedious. We are excited by this nanovaccine research which, if successful, can be used to protect food fish from other bacteria strains more easily as well.

MR FRANK TAN, managing director of Marine Life Aquaculture, on the new nanovaccine for tenacibaculum maritimum, a common bacterium in tropical waters.

But the injection method requires fish to be at least 10g. They also have to be immobilised using anaesthesia before trained workers can inject the vaccine at a precise location just below the belly. It takes one person about an hour to vaccinate 1,000 fish.

Dr Seng said the nanovaccine allows 60,000 or more fish to be vaccinated in the same amount of time, and the fish can be smaller.

While fish can already be vaccinated by being dipped into a container of the vaccine, this method is not as popular, as the protection is poorer and a much larger amount of vaccine is needed, Dr Seng said.

He added that the protection provided by the nanovaccine is on a par with that of the vaccine injection.

The team tested the nanovaccine on sea bass, and found that fish immersed in a solution with the nanovaccine had two times more antibodies than those immersed in the conventional vaccine solution.

The nanovaccine was developed over the past two years. The nano material used is a combination of clay and chitosan, derived from crustacean shells. Tests found that it did not affect the health of the fish and was not toxic to human colon cell lines. All traces of residue in the fish disappeared after a month.

Dr Diana Chee, deputy director of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore's (AVA) aquaculture technology department, said manufacturers that intend to commercialise vaccines for local use must prove they are safe for fish and humans."Currently, there is overseas research into effective and safe nanovaccines for poultry, shrimp and fish. Similarly, there is potential for the development and use of nanovaccines for aquaculture in Singapore," she said.

There are other research groups coming up with easier ways to vaccinate fish, such as through a vaccine that can be mixed in fish feed, developed at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) with an Israeli partner.

Dr Padmanabhan Saravanan, head of the Centre of Innovation for Complementary Health Products at TP, acknowledged the benefits of nanovaccines.

But he said: "Because we have not fully understood the effects of nanotechnology, there is no firm evidence of how it will impact the food chain with humans at the top of it."

Dr Seng's team intends to register its nanovaccine with the AVA soon. There is currently no nanovaccine registered for use on food fish here.

Few of the 120 or so fish farms here vaccinate their fish because of a lack of expertise.Marine Life Aquaculture managing director Frank Tan said: "The current method is very tedious. We are excited by this nanovaccine research which, if successful, can be used to protect food fish from other bacteria strains more easily as well."


NYP researcher Jeffrey Seng explains how the new method works:

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Singapore egg farm hatches new ideas, using tech, to transform business

N&N Agriculture has been introducing products such as pasteurised soft yolk eggs, which are sold to commercial customers like ramen restaurants, as well as ready-to-eat poached eggs, to stay relevant in the market.
Kevin Kwang Channel NewsAsia 10 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: Ever wondered how the egg in the ramen you’re slurping down has a soft texture, and with a runny yolk consistency? If you think it’s all down to the chef’s expertise, think again.

Local egg farm N&N Agriculture has been a strong proponent of using technology to create new ways of running a traditional industry like egg farming, and coming up with new products along the way. This can be seen in its commitment to splash out S$13 million to install a pasteurisation facility at its 13-ha farm.

Its eggs, sold under the Egg Story brand, go through a patented pasteurisation process developed by a US company called National Pasteurized Eggs. Essentially, they will be submerged in a warm water bath and the temperature and length of time used effectively destroys Salmonella and bird flu that may exist inside and outside the egg – but not cooking it, CEO Ma Chin Chew explained when Channel NewsAsia visited the farm recently.

By contrast, most eggs sold at supermarkets are not pasteurised, he added.

The CEO shared that he, and the two other local players Chew’s Group and Seng Choon Farm, were first introduced to the technology by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). He subsequently made another four trips to the US to see how the system works before committing to the investment.

“At that time, I didn’t know if the (Singapore) market could and would support the (pasteurisation) technology,” he admitted.

But his desire to create safe and quality eggs meant he was the only one who took the plunge and, since then, the modern farmer has been hard at work reinventing the way egg farming is done and developing new products to bring to the market.


One of these is its pasteurised soft yolk egg, also known as Hanjuku eggs, commonly seen in Japanese ramen dishes.

These eggs are first cracked open slightly at the top, before being placed on a conveyor belt that carries them into a vat of boiling water at 97 degrees Celsius. After being boiled for some time, they are quickly dropped into a pool of cold water, allowing heat to quickly dissipate – resulting in a firm egg white but runny yolks within, Mr Ma said during the tour of his farm.

These Hanjuku eggs are then de-shelled, before being conveyed to another point where a worker checks on their quality before packing and sealing them in air-tight packs in two variants: One soaked in sauce, and the other not.

“If there are any that have cracked open during the sealing process, we will have to unseal and remove the split egg, before re-packing again,” the CEO pointed out, noting the stringent level of quality control involved given the fragile nature of these eggs.

To date, Japanese food and beverage (F&B) outlets such as RamenPlay and Ramen Keisuke are those that use these Hanjuku eggs in their dishes, the company said.

And it’s not just F&B outlets that are attracted to N&N’s Hanjuku eggs. Convenience store giant 7-Eleven Singapore also introduced a ready-to-eat product, called Hanjuku Eggs, at its stores since 2014. This is through a partnership with the egg farm, N&N said.

Another product is the tamagoyaki – Japanese rolled omelette – which is commonly found atop sushi rolls.

Using its pasteurised eggs and processes, the tamagoyaki is prepared and sealed before being sold chilled through its sister company, Tamago-Ya by Food10. This sister company is positioned to target Japanese consumers in Singapore, as such the marketing and food packaging are predominantly in Japanese, N&N’s marketing manager Chan Yuey Sum told Channel NewsAsia.

Asked how has the introduction of Hanjuku eggs, tamagoyaki and other pasteurised egg products benefited the business, Mr Ma said: “In 2010, my sales was S$12 million, and in 2016, it doubled to S$24 million, so you can see the impact.”

He added that the diversification of its business to such arenas was a necessary step, not just to differentiate itself from local producers, but also to move away from the cut-throat competition put up by importers from Malaysia and Thailand.

“The egg business is quite tough,” Mr Ma acknowledged, “and when the ringgit depreciated (last year), that was a nightmare” as eggs from across the Causeway became even cheaper.

This challenging climate, he said, is why N&N Agriculture is now aiming for the higher-end segment, as well as complementary products through its pasteurisation capability.


The CEO added that when the hefty investment was made, he didn’t know if the land lease for the farm would be renewed. It was a cloud over his head, so much so that in a previous interview he said he was reluctant to sell the idea of his children taking over the farm.

However, this cloud has lifted somewhat after the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) recently informed him that they will renew the lease for another 20 years, although he has yet to receive the official paperwork.

Mr Ma sounded a note of caution, saying the new contract will come with “new terms”, and possibly a hike in lease premium. As it is, the egg farm is currently paying a “pricey” annual land lease, and any increase will add more pressure on the company’s bottomline.

Amid such uncertainty, the CEO remained stoic. He said that before SLA’s letter, he “did not give much thought” to the expiry of land lease issue, and he was alright with the idea of giving up his farm – and all that he invested.

“At least I tried (it my way),” Mr Ma said.

Source: CNA/kk

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Indonesia: RSPO Investigating Reports of Ongoing Labor Abuse at Indofood Plantations

Sheany Jakarta Globe 11 Dec 17;

Jakarta. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, announced last week that its complaints panel is currently investigating reports of ongoing worker exploitation at plantations belonging to Indonesian food giant Indofood and that there are plans to conduct onsite verification soon.

United States-based environmental organization Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Indonesian labor rights advocacy group Oppuk and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) published a report in late November detailing grim working conditions at plantations owned and operated by Indofood. This includes exposure to hazardous pesticides, payments below the minimum wage and the use of child labor.

The research was conducted at three plantations in North Sumatra, operated by London Sumatra Indonesia (Lonsum) – a listed subsidiary of Indofood's plantation arm, Indofood Agri Resources (IndoAgri). The plantations are certified as "sustainable" by the RSPO – the leading certification scheme in the palm oil industry.

Details of the alleged labor abuses at Indofood-owned plantations were first made public in June last year, with the most recent report showing that "conditions on the plantations remain largely the same."

RAN, Oppuk and the ILRF lodged a formal complaint against Indofood with the RSPO in October last year, which led to the suspension of SAI Global Indonesia – the firm that certifies Indofood's plantations – in December 2016.

The suspension, according to information posted by Accreditation Services International – the RSPO's accreditation body – on its website, was lifted on July 6 this year.

In response to the Jakarta Globe's request for comment, RSPO country director Tiur Rumondang said in an email on Thursday (07/12) that the organization has been "communicating with relevant stakeholders" and reaffirmed their commitment to transparency and accountability. She added that they encourage "members to respond to allegations against them in a similar manner."

"The complaints panel is investigating the matter and onsite verification is being planned," Tiur said.

She said the panel is also in contact with RAN, Oppuk and the ILRF "to move the plans forward" and that it has mandated the RSPO secretariat to follow up with Lonsum on the new allegations of reprisals against workers.

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Indonesia: Environmental group aims to plant two million trees on Mount Rinjani

Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 11 Dec 17;

Saving the environment: More than 500 people prepare on Dec. 10, 2016, to clean up and plant trees on Mt. Rinjani, a tourist destination famous for its beauty but notorious for its litter. (JP/Panca Nugraha)

Lombok-based environmental activist group Pawang Rinjani plans to plant some two million tree seedlings across five districts in North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, that serve as a buffer zone to Mount Rinjani. The trees are all endemic to the region.

The event, called Gawe Gawah, is a reforestation program that follows a local wisdom tradition as a tribute to the forest.

“Gawe Gawah is not only an event to plant trees but also an opportunity to raise people’s awareness of the importance of taking care of the natural environment that surrounds them,” said Pawang Rinjani public relations officer Abdullah Apink Al Kaff on Monday.

“We plan to plant about two million trees that are endemic to Lombok, such as sengon (silk trees), gatep (Tahitian chestnut) and flamboyan (Royal poinciana).”

The event, which will be held on Dec. 24, will see tree seedlings distributed to thousands of people who reside in the five buffer-zone districts in North Lombok.

“Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya will attend the event,” Abdullah said.

Representatives of the North Lombok regional council (DPD) and environmental activists will also be invited to attend.

Pawang Rinjani is focused on environmental conservation. In 2016, the group planted more than 40,000 flamboyan trees in several conservation areas within the regency through a program called Daulat Pohon.

This year, the organizations has continued its efforts to promote the spirit of environmental conservation, starting from the smallest steps, such as encouraging people to plant trees in their surrounding areas. (nmn/ebf)

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'Worrying alarm call' for world's birds on brink of extinction

Helen Briggs BBC News 12 Dec 17;

Overfishing and changing sea temperatures are pushing seabirds to the brink of extinction, according to new data on the world's birds.

Birds that are now globally threatened include the kittiwake and the Atlantic puffin, which breed on UK sea cliffs.

Meanwhile, on land, the Snowy Owl is struggling to find prey as ice melts in the North American Arctic, say conservation groups.

The iconic bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction for the first time.

"Birds are well-studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment,'' said Dr Ian Burfield, global science coordinator at BirdLife International, the IUCN Red List authority on birds.

''A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now. ''

He added that success in kiwi and pelican conservation had shown that, when well-resourced and supported, conservation efforts do pay off.

Worldwide, over a quarter of more than 200 bird species reassessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have been moved to higher threat categories while a similar number have been downgraded.

Fishing pressures

Seabirds are of particular concern, including Cape gannets, which are now classified as Endangered, and the Antipodean Albatross, which risks being drowned by fishing lines.

Fishing pressures and ocean changes caused by climate change are reducing food supply for the chicks of seabirds, while adults receive little protection when they fly over areas of the ''high seas'' that do not fall under the jurisdiction of any country, says BirdLife International.

The kittiwake (Rissa Tridactyla, or black-legged kittiwake), which breeds along northern coasts, has declined globally by about 40% since the 1970s.

More than 70% of the British breeding kittiwake population is found in Scotland.

However, there has been a dramatic decline, particularly in Orkney and Shetland and on St Kilda in the Western Isles.

"Some efforts are underway to protect important seabird foraging areas in international waters, but there is much more we could do around the UK to protect our internationally important and increasingly threatened seabird populations," said Laura Bambini, the RSPB Scotland's seabird recovery officer.

Sandeels are a vital food source for breeding seabirds in the North Sea. The eels are threatened by rising sea temperatures and are also harvested by commercial fisheries.

"We need to ensure that the future management of the sandeel fishery is sustainable,'' said Dr Euan Dunn, the RSPB's marine policy specialist.

The other birds found in the UK to be placed on the IUCN Red List are:
Atlantic Puffin
European Turtle Dove
Slavonian Grebe
Balearic Shearwater
Long-tailed Duck
Velvet Scoter
Aquatic Warbler.
Flagship species

Elsewhere, the Snowy Owl has moved up the rankings from Least Concern to Vulnerable. The North American population has declined by 64% since 1970, as changing temperatures affect its habitat and prey. Collisions with vehicles and utility lines are also a threat to the owl, made famous in the Harry Potter books.

"Arctic biodiversity is under pressure from a number of stressors, including climate change, so hopefully the uplisting of the Snowy Owl as a flagship species will also draw attention to wider issues in this region,'' said Dr Burfield.

Dalmatian pelican: On the rise due to added protection measures
In Asia, the Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola), which is illegally trapped for food, has been uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

More positive news comes from Europe, where Dalmatian Pelicans are recovering after conservation efforts. This year, pelicans on Lake Skadar in Montenegro had their most successful breeding season ever, raising 60 chicks.

However, while two species of kiwi in New Zealand are now less threatened, the Kea is declining, in part due to tourists feeding the parrots with junk food like bread and chips.

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Whales, after deadly year, could become extinct


Officials with the federal government say it's time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died so far in 2017.

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won't recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

"You do have to use the extinction word, because that's where the trend lines say they are," Bullard said. "That's something we can't let happen."

Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.

The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales' deaths.

"The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency," he said.

The animals give birth in temperate southern waters and then head to New England and Canada every spring and summer to feed. All of this year's deaths were off of New England and Canada.

Some recent scientific studies have shed some light on why whale deaths have ticked up. One, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, stated that the whales move around much more than previously thought. Some scientists have posited that whales might be venturing outside of protected areas in search of food, putting themselves in harm's way.

In another study, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined right whale feces and found whales that suffer long entanglements in fishing gear produce hormone levels that indicate high stress. The stress negatively impacts their ability to reproduce even when they survive entanglement, scientists said.

"My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish, but not entangle whales," said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

A five-year NOAA review of right whales that was released in October said the animals should remain on the endangered list. It also included recommendations to protect the species. They included developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use, and studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales.

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