30X30:Our Hunger for Food Security

The story of food security in Singapore

SG Fresh Produce II : Eye on the Price

Hi everyone, welcome back. As mentioned in the last blog post, I conducted a survey at the start of September to get an idea about what my friends felt about food security.

I realised that most respondents were not too familiar with the various local farms in Singapore. I asked respondents to list as many food farms as possible and vetted through their answers.

Most people could not name specific farms (although they were aware that Kranji/Lim Chu Kang had some and that there were fish, poultry and that one goat milk farm). This shows that the brand recognition of our local farms isn’t that high.

I looked back at the word cloud shown in last week’s post and realised that both “cheap” and “expensive” were commonly associated with local produce. I decided this warranted another survey and expanded the target audience to family and my hallmates.

Here is the breakdown of the demographics:


I asked respondents if they thought local produce was cheaper or more expensive. It appears that most of us were not sure, but fewer people thought that local produce was cheaper.

I avoided phrasing it as a agree/disagree question so as to not influence their answer, but “I think local produce is not sure” doesn’t make sense haha

Is this really the case? As mentioned in the last post, NTUC Fairprice carried more local produce than other supermarkets online. I compared local produce types on NTUC with imported produce from NTUC, Sheng Shiong and Red Mart, selecting the cheapest option for both local and imported produce, ignoring temporary offers. Here are my results:

Item Domestic




Cheaper option % difference from imports
Bean Sprouts (taugeh) 0.35 0.38 Singapore -7.9%
Xiao Bai Cai 0.41* / 0.56 0.40 Malaysia 2.5%/40%
Kow Peack Cai/ Jiu Bai Cai

(Not sure if this is a Bai Cai variant similar to Xiao Bai Cai)

0.40 NIL NA NA
Baby Kai Lan 0.63 0.78 Singapore -19.2%
Cai Xin variants 0.41*/ 0.57 0.40 Malaysia 2.5%/42.5%
Round Spinach 0.41* 0.38 Malaysia 7.9%
Barramundi 4.33 3.90 Vietnam 11.0%
eggs 0.40 0.27 Malaysia 48.1%

Prices marked * are Pasar brand vegetables that are primarily sourced from Singapore but may use Malaysian produce to meet shortfalls. There is no difference in price between the local and Malaysian variants. I have included the next cheapest SGFP certified alternative if available.

Taugeh was a shoo-in and I struggled to find imports for that. It turns out that 70% of taugeh is grown locally. While our barramundi may be more expensive, we have a surprisingly large number of suppliers of fresh and frozen versions. While the price difference in eggs may appear significant, this was because local brands did not carry the larger  30 – egg trays and most chose to differentiate themselves in terms of freshness and nutritional value. If local egg farms are aiming to portray freshness, it may not make sense to sell the larger variants at supermarkets that may take longer for the average consumer to finish. I suspect they do sell in bulk to stall owners instead. Moreover, at the point of writing the cheapest local egg sold is actually on discount at $0.35/100g (29.6% more expensive than imports) while being lower in cholesterol with added Vitamin E.

While there are cheaper imported leafy vegetables, the price difference is minimal. In fact, more than two-thirds of respondents were willing to pay up to 10% more for local produce.

What’s interesting is that originally 44% of respondents were in principle unwilling to pay more before I quantified the price difference.

So, while local produce may not necessarily always be cheaper, the price difference is minimal and may be made up by the difference in quality such as freshness.

As we can see, when it comes to food, price is not the sole determinant. In conclusion, local produce can be competitive with imports even at the current price levels.

Through the course of these two posts, I’ve identified a few limitations with the SG Fresh Produce scheme. I’d be wrapping up this “trilogy” next week!


Ee Kin



  1. Dear Ee Kin

    Hi Wen Han here! Really loved how the research is done to find the relation between local food prices and local consumerism habits. I’m not gonna lie but Seng Choon Egg farm is the only local farm that I know, simply because I only ate this brand of eggs since childhood! I ought to know more about Singapore farms, don’t you think so;)

    Anyways, pertaining to the last chart, you mentioned that different factors contribute to the public’s support of a particular food product. What about GMO labelling? (https://www.gmac.sg/Education/Index_FAQ_Genetically_Modified_Foods.html) Do you think it will affect the public on their choice of selection? As far as I know, GMO labelling is one of the criteria that locals look out for when choosing a food product. Personally, I avoid GMOs and would rather purchase organic food product that are often priced higher. Hope to hear from you!

    • See Toh Ee Kin

      October 10, 2020 at 10:44 AM

      Hi Wen Han,

      Thanks for stopping by, great to hear from you. Thanks! It was quite frustrating trying to find the cheapest local and imported version of the produce only to find that the local produce lost out by one cent per 100g! Also Seng Choon must be doing something right. As mentioned in my “Fish, Leafy Vegetables and Eggs” post there are five egg farms in Singapore but I could only name one. I was aware that other farms existed but not their names. Looking at the Pasar house brand, it is worth wondering if it is important for the individual farm to be known, or if they should piggy-back on more established brands.

      The chart you mentioned actually looks at cooked food (at hawker centres etc) and just gives an indication into what Singaporeans may value in food. It should be a nice segue into my next post.

      GMO is interesting, I haven’t really considered it. When reading up on the food production history of Singapore (https://blog.nus.edu.sg/30x30ourhungerforfoodsecurity/2020/09/11/44/), I learnt that people originally expected the agritech parks to hit off in the 1990s, but concerns arising from GMO products dampened demand. May I ask why you avoid GMO products? Personally I’m of the opinion that any safe application of technology that improves our yields should be seriously considered. In adopting GMO, we need to consider its impact on health and the environment.

      If you’re interested in organic products, many Singaporean farms do carry them. I didn’t cover it in this post because they are more expensive. In the overall efforts to ensure food security in Singapore to ensure the success of the 30by30 goal I don’t think organic products are the mainstay though.

      Ee Kin

      • Hi Ee Kin,

        This post is fantastic.

        And I especially dig your response to Wen Han. I would love to hear his concerns about GMOs and, you might encourage him to engage with Alicia, given that one of her recent posts was all about this issue and it was great.



        • See Toh Ee Kin

          October 12, 2020 at 6:35 PM

          Hi Dr Coleman,


          I’ve replied to Wen Han and included the link to Alicia’s post. A few of her posts may also be relevant to food production in Singapore and coincides with a planned post. Nothing is confirmed yet but I will take it on from a more local context.

  2. Hi Ee Kin,

    Thanks for doing the survey to see how much Singaporeans know about our local farms! Actually before university started, I was working in a food consultancy company and we worked very closely with our local farms to promote local farms, and I’m glad to say that over the past months, people’s awareness on local produce has tremendously increased, and honestly it’s thanks to COVID-19.

    I wanted to ask you about your opinion on the Pasar brand of produce. Do you think that supermarkets should use the Pasar brand and combine local with imported produce? I feel that by doing so, it removes the awareness and the presence of local produce in our supermarkets. Furthermore, the Pasar brand often sells at a lower price than “purely local” produce, and this may lead to fewer people purchasing our local goods. Also, while I do agree that local produce tends to be more expensive due to our production costs, do you think there is a way to lower such costs? Hope to get your opinion!!

    ps. Cold Storage also sells quite a few local brands, maybe unfortunately because Cold Storage is associated with higher prices (or at least that’s what the general public feels), so the local goods can also be sold at a higher price. Perhaps you could try comparing prices there too!

    • See Toh Ee Kin

      October 12, 2020 at 5:42 PM

      Hi Ernest, thanks for stopping by. I remember someone mentioning that he was involved in this industry during one of the lectures but didn’t quite remember that it was you then. Would really appreciate your input.

      From what I know, Pasar is the house brand for NTUC. In a way I guess NTUC Fairprice was “ahead of the curve” when it came to local produce as they were incorporated into their house brand. It just happens that the industry is starting to shift towards making local produce more prominent, which differs from NTUC’s current method. Looking at it purely from a quantitative point of view, does it matter if people are buying local produce but without knowing it? Take taugeh for example, not many of us may have known that 70% are grown in Singapore but that doesn’t stop it from fufilling our nutrional needs.
      I would say that the sale of local produce under the Pasar brand may at least have guranteed local farmers that their produce can be sold, as opposed to starting from scratch without the support of NTUC/Pasar. However, I am not familiar with the contractal terms Pasar has with their suppliers, but I feel that the bottom line is that it must be econommically sustainable for the local farms too.
      Haha regarding cost I’m not too sure too. I guess under Pasar they might enjoy some economies of scale when it comes to distribution. Packing wise during a visit to the now defunct Oh Chin Huat farm a while back I think they do it on site with the Pasar branded packaging, so I guess they may the packing material and whatever RND involved with that is covered by Pasar? Moving away from Pasar, I don’t think nationalising that part of the supply chain would be in line with recent efforts to make the individual farms more prominent so it is probably note the way to go.

      What do you think?

      Oh yahhh, Cold Storage was also listed as a participating supermarket for the SGFP thing, but I decided not to look at it for this post due to the costs too. Perhaps I could have given it a deeper look instead of writing it off on the onset.

      • Hi Ee Kin, thanks for your reply! I think it might be me..? I don’t remember anyone else mentioning it haha but I am pretty sure that there are many others who have joined this industry before too.

        Quantitatively speaking, local produce is still going off the shelves and our farmers do continue to earn. The issue now will then be whether we want our citizens to 1) know what they are actually buying, and 2) be more aware of local produce. So it really depends on what we want to achieve, I guess.

        Regarding the prices, I am also not sure about the exact sum the farms are getting from Pasar. Without getting into too much detail though, I have heard that the prices aren’t as high as what they would be selling under their own brand. This leads to them earning less and it makes it really hard for them to sustain farm operations. One thing that stuck with me while working with them is that the farmers said that just a 10cent increase in prices will make things better for them to sustain their operations. It shows not only the magnitude of the operations and their output (that’s why such a small increase in price can generate large revenues) but also that it does not take much from us as consumers to keep our local farms in business and encourage more to join the farming industry. After all, if we want to achieve our 30×30 goal, we will need more people to join in.


        • See Toh Ee Kin

          October 16, 2020 at 2:00 PM

          Hi Ernest, I see.

          Hmm, I guess there may be some cost incurred if they sold their produce under their own brands as compared to under Pasar. I guess the question is if current branding is enough that people will be able to accept a higher price. While the bulk of respondents in my survey would accept a 10% higher price for local produce, it remains to be seen if this indeed reflects consumer behaviour in the supermarkets.

          Also I totally agree that we need youg Singaporeans working in the industry too. I understand that SFA parters with various institutes of higher learning and farms to allow for more industrial experience for students (https://www.sfa.gov.sg/food-for-thought/article/detail/steering-the-future-of-farming).


  3. Hi, thanks for your reply! I guessed I misread the chart title haha.

    Anyways, yes I avoid GMOs mainly due to health implications they have on us in the long run (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/12-reasons-to-avoid-gmos_b_1243723). Coming from a biotechnology background in Polytechnic, I have had done my fair share of DNA recombination research practice. Things that are genetically engineered are not 100% perfect. For instance, they might be more resistant to diseases and have higher nutritional value. However, they lead to health complications like immune suppression.

    Apart from my slight knowledge in ‘playing god’, I cannot deny that I have been brainwashed by social media into thinking that GMOs are harmful to us. I would conclude that my avoidance of GMOs is largely attributed to media influence.

    • See Toh Ee Kin

      October 12, 2020 at 6:08 PM

      Hi Wen Han, I didn’t know about the health implications, thanks for letting me know. I wouldn’t be so fast to write off all your concerns about GMO as just due to media influence, since you have been involved – of sorts- in that field during poly.

      Nonetheless, it is important that we try and make sure our sources are credible. As you may have noticed when talking about nuclear power in your blogs even environmental groups and green parties may have their own reasons on supporting/discouraging certain practises.

      As Dr Coleman suggested, if you are interested in discussing about GMO, Alicia has a rather informative post (https://blog.nus.edu.sg/e0559558/2020/10/05/frankenfoods/). She would be much more aware about the issues at play here than I am.


  4. Hi Ee Kin!

    Thanks for such an insightful and informative read! As mentioned in your post, higher local food prices could be attributed to better food quality – such as nutrition and freshness. Personally, I feel that if I were aware of this, I wouldn’t mind spending even more on local produce albeit higher prices. I was curious if there has been any effort made by local producers to differentiate their products as such and how they go about communicating that. This might be tricky as I assume that the majority of food companies (pertaining to those that produce mainly unprocessed goods like rice, fish, eggs, poultry, etc), regardless of nationality, would like to advertise their products as fresh and healthy, so how does/can local produce stand out? Hope to hear from you soon!


    • See Toh Ee Kin

      October 16, 2020 at 1:49 PM

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for dropping by!

      haha yeap, who wouldn’t want to say that their food is fresh. I guess by virtue of being in Singapore and taking a shorter time from farm to market/table our local farms would have that advantage. I’ve spoken with a representative from Barramundi Asia – the parent company of Kühlbarra, a local barramundi farm which highlights its freshness – and we discussed a bit about this. The post wil be out on 30th October so stay tuned!

      Ee Kin

  5. Hey Kelly & Ee Kin,

    Here’s a sample size of 1, but I will honestly say I’m not sure I’ve ever had better tasting leafy greens than the Comcrop and Sustenir ones I buy.

    Actually, the arugula from Sustenir is hands-down the most delicious arugula I’ve ever eaten. This week, Sustenir arugula from Redmart is the same price (on sale) as the imported brands (same quantity). Usually, it’s about 30 % more expensive.

    Comcrop mint & basil (very yummy) are the same price or cheaper than imported brands.

    I don’t know why these greens taste so good – I think it’s about more than the freshness, but I don’t know. Try for yourself.


    • See Toh Ee Kin

      October 20, 2020 at 9:00 PM

      Hi Dr Coleman,

      Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ve noticed something. For farms that can’t compete on price (usually for common vegetables that neighbouring countries grow too), they may focus on more niche/”fancy” vegetables. That way they can charge a higher price and still not be exorbitantly expensive compared to alternatives. I mean arugula, mint and basil aren’t veggies I grew up eating and so there’s no benchmark price. Even though its the same price ( for a larger amount at that) some might balk at paying $3.90 for their Chye Sim which is around twice the price of “normal” Chye Sim at NTUC.

      • Hi Ee Kin,

        Your reply made me realise something – the cultural aspect. I mean, basil & mint are staple herbs in VNM & THL (and probably Laotian) cuisines, and I grew up eating them as well as arugula. I guess it was shortsighted of me to focus on those specific ones.

        But you’ve got me curious. Can you taste a noticeable difference between chye sim from Comcrop and ‘regular’ chye sim ? I wonder if the company had volunteers do blind taste tests so it could justify charging a steeper price.


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