Singapore stakes claim on first organic standard for produce grown by urban and indoor farming

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

With increasing demand for authentic organic primary produce, SS 632: 2017 was developed to aid industry players in the sector as well as consumers. ©GettyImages
With increasing demand for authentic organic primary produce, SS 632: 2017 was developed to aid industry players in the sector as well as consumers. ©GettyImages
Singapore has launched its first organic standard, which officials believe is possibly the world’s first organic standard for produce grown in urban and indoor conditions.

The Singapore Standard (SS) 632: 2017 for Organic Primary Produce has been issued by the Singapore Standards Council (SSC) and Enterprise Singapore.

With increasing demand for authentic organic primary produce, SS 632: 2017 was developed to aid industry players in the organic primary produce sector as well as consumers.

Dr Allan Lim, chairman of the Food Standards Committee (FSC) of the SSC, cited data from Euromonitor International that, in 2015, annual growth for organic packaged food in Singapore was 4%, with sales of US$9m, while for organic beverages it was 3%, at US$140,845.

The factors driving the demand include an increase in consumer awareness, health and wellness as a key priority influencing consumer purchasing decisions, and rising disposable incomes.

Urban approach

According to the FSC, SS 632: 2017 was tailored to local Singaporean conditions yet encompasses the principles of organic agriculture: health, ecology, fairness and care.

It pertains to traditional organic farming, peri-urban and urban organic farming, as well as the distribution and trade of organic produce.

At the launch, Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, convenor of the Organic Primary Produce Working Group, said, “I am proud to say that this is possibly the first national standard in the world for organic produce in the urban and peri-urban environments.”

The standard provides the requirements for primary produce such as grains, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and fresh fruits and covers processes such as production, post-harvest practices, import, packing and re-packing, storage, transport and labelling.

Vitoon Panyakul, chair of International Organic Accreditation Service and founder and board member of Earth Net Foundation, said the vast number of organic certification schemes in the market often confuses consumers and makes it hard to verify authenticity.

While lauding the launch of SS 632: 2017, he cautioned that full implementation would take some time, possibly up to two years.

How it came about

Dr Lim said the birth of the organic standard for Singapore began when Dr Ngiam noticed the trend of organic farming in the world and saw business opportunities.

However, one challenge was that there was a shortage of land in Singapore for organic farming.

A “New Work Item” proposal for an organic standard was raised, and the FSC was approved to work on it.

The Working Group on Organic Primary Produce made reference to regional and international standards, and after three years of in-depth study, it was deemed possible to practice organic farming in urban and peri-urban environments, in adherence to the principles of organic agriculture and subject to strict criteria. It then began drafting the standard.

For instance, the soil or substrate has to be recycled and reused after appropriate ecologically sustainable treatment such as composting; hydroponic cultivation is not allowed; growing media and substrates which can accommodate the root system is allowed; in indoor farming, artificial lighting powered by use of renewable energy shall be allowed; and the integrity of the organic products shall be maintained throughout the distribution chain.

According to Dr Lim, the FSC aims to spearhead Singapore’s development into a world-class food hub, support key initiatives under the country’s Food Manufacturing and Food Services Industry Transformation Maps, and develop standards to support emerging trends and address industry needs.

The FSC currently has 38 existing Singapore standards covering areas such as food products, food services, food processing and distribution, primary food production and food safety management.

The launch was organised by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation - Standards Development Organisation (SMF-SDO), the appointed organisation by Enterprise Singapore to develop and promote standards for the four Standards Committees: Biomedical and Health Standards Committee (BHSC), Food Standards Committee (FSC), Quality and Safety Standards Committee (QSSC), and Manufacturing Standards Committee (MSC).

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