German president visits Singapore as food shortages bite | DW | 15.06.2022

German president visits Singapore as food shortages bite

Fresh chicken is currently in short supply in Singapore. The favorite meat of the people in the rich island state has been strictly rationed. “We have to take half the chicken off the menu,” said Tanja Jesemann, managing director of Brauhaus Paulaner, which has been serving traditional German food on one of Singapore’s main boulevard for 25 years. The top supplier, neighbor Malaysia, has imposed an export ban.

All food prices are going through the roof in Singapore. “It’s getting harder and harder for us to get any supplies at all,” Jesemann said. Hops and malt, delivered by ship from Germany, are also becoming hard to come by. The pandemic and the Russian war have made everything more complicated. “We have to plan ahead now much more for all food deliveries because we just don’t know when we’ll get something again next time and then how much.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is standing on the 19th-floor terrace of Singapore’s port operator, PSA International. From here, he has an impressive panoramic view of the port of Singapore — the second largest cargo port in the world. A long line of cargo ships are waiting to be unloaded.

President Steinmeier met with his Singaporean counterpart Halimah Yacob

Steinmeier is visiting Singapore, a trade partner for Germany that depends on free trade and open borders more than almost any other country in the world.

“As far as the world situation as a whole is concerned, in Singapore, of course, one is further away from the Russian war on Ukraine. But you feel the consequences here as well,” said Steinmeier. Globalization has stalled: Countries are sealing themselves off, imposing export bans on chicken like Malaysia, turning their attention to home production. Supply chains are being disrupted around the world.

Singapore was one of only three countries in Asia to quickly join the West’s sanctions against Russia. “I think Singapore made a very clear decision to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because it was a clear and egregious violation of international law,” said Lynn Kuok, Asia-Pacific security expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Rule-based order

The Russian war in Ukraine is a reminder to Singapore of how vulnerable small states are when the law of the strongest applies and when international trade is disrupted. “As a major beneficiary of open international trade and a small state that relies on global security for its survival and economic growth, Singapore places enormous emphasis on the preservation of the rules-based order and international law,” said Hunter S. Marston, researcher on Southeast Asia at the Australian National University.

This is what the German president is emphasizing on his trip to Asia, which will take him to Indonesia as well as Singapore: “We need cooperation between countries that, like many here in Southeast Asia, have an interest in ensuring that we have a rules-based international order, that we have jurisdiction in the country that is reliable, that we have secure investment conditions,” Steinmeier said.

“Singapore is the most globalized country in the world,” Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore’s former UN ambassador, told DW. ” Our total trade is around 3.2 times the size of our GDP. Hence, Singapore will remain committed to supporting globalization together with the majority of Asian countries.”

Chicken has become a rare commodity in Singapore

Home-grown food

But economic growth is slowing down. It is expected to grow only 3.5% this year, down from 7.6% last year.

As a result, Singapore also wants to reduce its own dependencies: By 2030, the small island wants to produce 30% of its food locally. Currently, the country still has to import 90% of its food. The shortage of fresh chicken meat is currently making the 5.4 million inhabitants very aware of how vulnerable this makes them.

However, the very small country has little land for agricultural cultivation. That is why investments are being made in “vertical farming.” Crops are grown and harvested on buildings and shrimp are raised in the city with artificial intelligence.

President Steinmeier plans to visit a sustainable shrimp farm in the middle of Singapore, where computers monitor temperature, water quality and other parameters and decide, for example, how much feed the shrimp need.

At Brauhaus Paulaner, Tanja Jesemann has raised prices on the menu by 15% to 25%, depending on the dish. “The euphoria of finally being able to meet and go out again after the pandemic still prevails among people.” Nevertheless, Jesemann also senses great concern among her customers, especially among young people. “They have grown up in a globally connected world and now see how fragile the world economic system is.” An old proverb comes to her mind: “The flap of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a hurricane on the other side of the world.”

This article was originally written in German.

Beating the heat in Singapore

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