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Improved regulations to create pro-enterprise environment for Singapore's food sector

[SINGAPORE] Companies in Singapore with a good track record can have their halal certification renewed automatically and the period of cover doubled to two years.

The option for automatic renewal was made available to companies since January this year.

The change is expected to save each company at least 16 man-hours spent on each application cycle, which translates to about 74,000 man-hours being saved per annum, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat on Friday.

It comes amid moves to foster a pro-enterprise environment where businesses can thrive.

He was speaking at the Food Services Transformation Conference 2019 organised by Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) Asian Culinary Institute Singapore. The event brought together food companies which shared their transformation experiences with others in the industry.

Mr Chee said: "We must also look internally at our regulatory processes in order to create a pro-enterprise environment that helps our businesses thrive.

"We do so through the Pro-Enterprise Panel under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which proactively seeks out feedback from businesses to review and streamline our rules and regulations, so that we help businesses to reduce compliance costs; support new innovation and provide more opportunities for local companies to demonstrate their capabilities and scale up."

Among the regulations tweaked is one which has businesses saving time and avoiding unnecessary lapses in halal certification.

Eligible companies will not need to go through the full application process each time their halal certification is due. And the validity of their halal certifications for all schemes can be extended from one year to two years based on good track record.

"We are discussing with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on the possibility of reducing the two-year licence fee quantum, to share cost savings from the process review with the applicants," Mr Chee added.

Muis is the sole authority to administer and regulate halal certification in Singapore.  In 2018, it certified more than 4,500 premises and more than 50,000 types of products made in Singapore. 

Another regulatory improvement means that food businesses can now request a joint inspection by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

A business has to be inspected by SFA to receive a food shop licence and those carrying more than 200kg of petroleum and flammable materials also require an SCDF inspection.

Food and beverage (F&B) companies currently have to arrange for such inspections with individual agencies.

Mr Chee noted: "It can be challenging to secure a common time slot for business owners and the inspectors to meet. Setting up two separate appointments is even more difficult, and this has inadvertently caused delays and inconvenience to business owners."

With this regulatory change, businesses can start operating up to three weeks earlier, he said.

Separately, Mr Chee said the food sector can transform itself by riding on new innovations and levelling up the workers, while venturing overseas to tap growth opportunities.

"We have a trusted brand name. Our businesses can build on this advantage. Food safety is a key consideration in many parts of the world, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for quality food with safety assurance," he added.

At the conference, the polytechnic's Asian Culinary Institute signed an agreement with Informa Markets, the organiser of the Food&HotelAsia (FHA) event, to promote skills deepening and reskilling for the food service industry.

The FHA event brings together industry professionals across Asia to source for high quality, new-to-market food ingredients, drinks and fresh produce.

NYP and Informa Markets will collaborate in setting up a learning studio at the polytechnic at next year's FHA event, to offer seminars and workshops in topics like food waste management, menu reengineering and customer digital analytics.

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