MP Leon Perera

Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what is the Government doing to explore the feasibility of seaweed production in Singapore’s waters; (b) whether the Ministry includes the local production of seaweed as part of its 30 by 30 agri-food strategy; and (c) whether the Ministry includes seaweed farms as part of its sea space lease provision.

The Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment (Dr Koh Poh Koon) (for the Minister of Sustainability and the Environment): Sir, given our land and resource constraints, including sea space, our “30 by 30” goal focuses on food items that have large consumer demand and can be grown in a productive and resource-efficient way, such as fish, vegetables and eggs. We currently do not have plans to allocate sea space for seaweed production. Nevertheless, we are prepared to consider proposals from the industry on new food types, including seaweed, that will help us contribute to our “30 by 30” goal.

Mr Speaker: Mr Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I thank the Senior Minister of State. Given the fact that around the world, there is a considerable degree of experimentation right now, even by developed countries in Europe and elsewhere to cultivate seaweed in coastal waters because of the benefits in terms of the emissions and also in terms of biodiversity and given that there is some experimentation around using technology to do this efficiently, would the Government be open to considering those kind of proposals in light of those benefits amid new developments and technologies.

Dr Koh Poh Koon: Sir, I thank the Member for sharing his views. We are aware that there have been efforts in different parts of the world to try and look at seaweed cultivation as a means of commercially providing substrates either for pharmaceutical use or for consumption. But in looking at whether seaweed is suitable here, we have to  first depend on commercial assessments to see whether this is something that industry players think is viable.

Just for information, as I said in my main reply, we are looking at whether there is enough local consumption demand to generate that commercial interest. And secondly, whether that really meets our nutritional goals.

On the first point, broadly speaking, seaweed is not really a widely consumed item in Singapore as compared to the other food types like vegetables. In fact, the annual volume of imported seaweed has been less than 1,000 tonnes, compared to vegetables where we have to import 544,000 tonnes per year. So, in terms of the commercial viability and the local demand, it may well be a commercial calculation that there is really no big demand here.

The second thing is on experimentation of seaweed cultivation at the coastal area. Here, we have also got to be very careful. What is suitably grown in other coastal areas in other parts of the world may well be different here because the water temperature is different, the water nutrients are different, the kind of biodiversity here is also different and we do have to understand by introducing a certain variety of seaweed or sea grass here, how they can impact the biodiversity and the micro ecosystem here, that can impact also the other type of organisms like fish. So, it is something that the agencies together with the experts have to study, to make sure that in trying to experiment something new, we do not introduce dangers to our own shores and create more problems in our ecosystem and biodiversity.

Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
10 January 2023


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