Dateline Southeast Asia

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Dateline Southeast Asia

Related tags Southeast asia European union

EU and Vietnam close to concluding a free-trade agreement

Vietnam and the European Union are on the cusps of signing a free trade deal that will remove nearly all tariffs. 

Calling it a In a “milestone” move, Brussels voiced hope that an agreement would then pave the way way to a region-wide agreement with Southeast Asia. 

The EU said the agreement in principle has followed two-and-a-half years of "intense" negotiations between the 28-nation EU and Vietnam. Two-way trade between the Southeast Asian nation and the European bloc has grown threefold to EUR28bn (US$31bn) over the last decade. 

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem announced that they had agreed on "all the political issues​", though more legal work was needed to finalise the text. 

It is expected that a final agreement will take effect in late 2017 or early 2018. 

Singapore’s youth health programme bears fruit

An initiative to promote healthier lifestyles among Singaporean students has been sucking in tackling youth obesity and smoking, the government has announced. 

Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Singapore’s health secretary revealed that half of the programme’s 661 overweight students either lost or maintained their weight during a  six-month weight management course.

Trained professional nurses are stationed full-time in selected schools to offer advice on health and nutrition on matters under the Student Health Advisor programme.

"It's very important for us to nurture our children, our students​,” Ibrahim said. “When they become parents or grandparents, they will be able to, in turn, help develop our future generations​." 

Enzymotec awarded patent for infant lipids

Lipid specialist Enzymotec has been granted a Singapore patent for its Infant ingredient that it markets through a joint-venture with AAK. The mark is for uses related to promoting the development of beneficial gut flora and reducing infant crying. 

The ingredient, which has been developed specifically for infant formula, incorporates essential qualities of mothers’ milk fat to provide an alternative for when breast milk is not available by closely mimicking the composition, structure and nutritional value of natural fat in breast milk. 

This patent joins our wide IP portfolio​", said Fabiana Bar-Yoseph, an Enzymotec researcher. 

"It covers the use of lipid composition, comprising a mixture of synthetic triglycerides with 15- 55% palmitic for inducing a beneficiary effect on the immune system by promoting development of beneficial gut flora and for reducing the frequency and duration of infant crying​.”

The patent is supported by published clinical data demonstrating that infants fed with formula containing Infat develop a similar variety of beneficial gut bacteria to babies who are breastfed.

Philippines uses charm to attract Muslim Malaysian investment

With a 4m Muslims in its population, the Philippines is now embarking on a charm offensive to attract more halal food business to the country, especially from Malaysia. 

J Eduardo Malaya, the Philippines ambassador to the country, said greater input from majority-Islamic Malaysia would help the dietary requirements of Muslims in his country be better met. 

“If that industry can be further developed to accommodate exports, that would be a wonderful plus,” Malaya added.

As a further incentive to Malaysian businesses, the ambassador noted that the Philippines had in recent years become the second largest consumer market in Asean as a result of fast increasing purchasing power among its 100m-strong population.

Singapore concerned by food wasteage

Nine out of 10 Singaporeans are worried about the level of food waste in the country, according to a recent poll.

The survey, by students from the National University of Singapore's, also found that most also want food and beverage companies either to donate safe unsold and near-expiry food to the needy or to sell it at a discount.

The amount of discarded food has reduced sightly over the last year from 796,000 tonnes in 2013, but the quantity is still significantly higher than the 703,200 tonnes registered in 2012.

Eugene Tay, of Zero Waste SG, which assisted in the research, said: “One of the things [companies] can do immediately is to donate unsold food to charities such as Food Bank and Food from the Heart​.”

Thai prawn prices down

Prices of Thai warm water prawn prices have fallen in July due to lower demand from major importers and high global production, according to commodities researcher Mintec. 

While prawn imports to the US from January to May 2015 were up 7% y-o-y, at 218,878 tonnes, US imports in May alone fell 3% year on year, due to US producers building up their own prawn inventories, potentially limiting trade in June and July. 

In India and Ecuador, harvesting has commenced early to reduce the risk of white spot virus outbreaks, which can kill the prawn.