After Madam Tan Swee Jee’s husband failed to find okra on a recent trip to the market, she revived her interest in farming and began planting again. The retiree in her 60s had started organic farming a few years ago but grandchildren and other activities left her little time to tend to her garden. As Singapore hunkered down for the “circuit breaker” period, she found time and reason to grow not just okra, but tapioca, papaya, herbs and other vegetables.

“We rely on other (countries) for our food, if they don’t sell to us we have nothing to eat,” she said in Mandarin. “This way, at least I can still have lady’s fingers.”Farm supply shops and companies that run urban farming workshops told CNA that there has been more interest in home farming since around February or March. Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange on Feb 7 after some locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 were detected, sparking a brief spate of panic buying. In mid-March, Malaysia imposed a movement control order which raised concerns that food supplies from the country, including vegetables, eggs and fruit, might be affected. Authorities came out swiftly to say that food and essentials from Malaysia will continue to flow during the lockdown.

But Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has warned that Singapore would have to be ready for disruptions to its supply of food and other essentials as lockdowns in various countries have diminished global production capacities and disrupted global supply chains. About 90 per cent of Singapore’s food currently comes from overseas. As the pandemic spread around the world and worsened here, Singapore announced on Apr 3 that most work places and schools would close in a circuit breaker period that started from Apr 7, and that people were to leave their homes only for essential activities such as buying food and groceries. 

Read more at Channel New Asia (Chew Hui Min)