SPEECH BY DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE HENG SWEE KEAT AT EVONIK’S METHIONINE-6 (“me6”) PLANT OPENING CEREMONY, TUESDAY, 18 JUNE 2019, 10.30AM at CAPITOL THEATRE
Your Excellency, Dr Ulrich Sante,
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Singapore,
Mr. Christian Kullmann,
Chairman of the Executive Board of Evonik Industries,
Dr. Harald Schwager,
Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Evonik Industries,
Members of the Evonik Executive Board,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for inviting me to officiate the opening of Evonik’s second methionine plant in Singapore, Me6.
a. Let me start by congratulating Evonik on the completion of the new plant ahead of schedule, and with a perfect safety record.
b. I am glad that Evonik has invested in a second plant in Singapore so soon after the first plant, Me5, opened here in 2014.
2. The Me6 investment by Evonik is testament to the strong partnership between Evonik and Singapore. It also reflects three key developments:
a. First, the growing opportunities in Asia for sustainable nutrition;
b. Second, the importance of innovation in ensuring food security; and
c. Third, the role of industry in growing the economy, creating jobs and upskilling our workers.
The growing opportunities in Asia for sustainable nutrition
3. First, the investment by Evonik to open its Me6 plant in Singapore highlights the growing opportunities in Asia for sustainable nutrition.
a. Today, Asia is a major producer of meat and seafood.
b. Asia’s growth and the increase in the number of middle class families will drive further demand for meat and seafood in the region.
i. This demand is set to grow by 78% by 20501.
c. In turn, greater meat and seafood consumption will result in higher demand in the animal nutrition industry.
4. Products such as methionine help to serve this growing demand.
a. Methionine is one of the essential amino acids for sustaining life, as it is a critical building block in food protein.
b. Methionine is also used as an animal feed additive to enable healthier, more sustainable, and more resource-efficient protein production.
c. The Asia region is the fastest-growing market for feed additives2, which are added to animal feed to enhance their nutritional value.
d. Evonik’s Me6 plant helps to meet the growing demand for healthy animal meat in Asia.
i. The plant will double Evonik’s production capacity for methionine in Singapore.
ii. Collectively, both plants have a combined production capacity of 300 kilotons per annum, and will produce more than 40% of Evonik’s global output of methionine.
5. Evonik’s investment in the Me6 plant affirms Singapore’s position as a reliable and trusted location, from which companies can meet the growing demand in Asia for sustainable nutrition.
a. The investment is worth more than $800 million Singapore dollars.
b. The plant is integrated with the infrastructure on Jurong Island.
c. This is testament to the continued competitiveness and strategic importance of Singapore as a petrochemical and speciality chemicals hub for the region.
6. Evonik and other specialty chemicals companies are key suppliers to the broader food and nutrition ecosystem.
The importance of innovation in ensuring food security
7. This brings me to my second point. Global food security is becoming an increasingly pressing issue.
a. The global population is set to rise to 9.8 billion people by 20503.
b. At the same time, arable land and crop yields are declining due to climate change.
c. These present challenges to meet global food and nutritional needs for the future.
d. To address this, we will require new and innovative ways to meet these needs suatainably.
8. In particular, food security is an existential challenge for Singapore.
a. As a small island city state, we are constrained by our lack of natural resources. We import almost all of our food.
b. Earlier this year, we set ourselves the goal of producing 30% of our nation’s nutritional needs locally by 2030, up from less than 10% today.
c. This more than three-fold increase is only possible through innovation and the deployment of new technologies.
9. Hence, beyond attracting new food-related manufacturing activities to Singapore, we have been investing significantly in innovation to meet our food and nutrition needs, and contribute to global needs.
a. In March this year, I announced that $144 million Singapore dollars would be invested in food research via the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme. This includes areas such as urban farming, aquaculture, and alternative proteins.
b. Later this month, Temasek Polytechnic will be launching its new Aquaculture Innovation Centre. The Centre will provide shared infrastructure and expertise for players across the aquaculture value chain. It will serve as an important partner to Singapore’s Marine Aquaculture Centre, which develops safe aqua-farming practices that minimise the use of antibiotics, and ensures a reliable supply of tropical food fish.
c. Singapore is also planning an 18 hectare Agri-Food Innovation Park in Kranji, which will physically co-locate high-tech farming and innovation activities for the agri-food sector. The Park will be ready in phases beginning in 2021.
10. I am also encouraged that companies are investing in innovation and new technologies, and working together with the scientific community.
a. Evonik, for example, already has a significant R&D presence in Singapore.
b. The annual “Evonik Meets Science” event will be held in Singapore for the first time, on the 25th and 26th of September this year.
i. The event will bring together Evonik’s top researchers and experts and Singapore’s scientific community to foster scientific exchange, and identify possible new areas for collaboration.
c. We welcome such activities.
11. Furthermore, we hope that our recent investments in innovation for food and nutrition will bring benefit to companies along the “farm-to-fork” value chain, and bring more opportunities for companies and Singapore.
a. Indeed, some of our efforts are already bearing fruit.
i. Take aquaculture as an example. We are starting to see an ecosystem develop across companies that produce premix and additive products, as well as final producers. These include companies like MSD Animal Health, Kemin, Oceanus Group, Barramundi Asia and Apollo Marine.
b. Beyond contributing to Singapore’s food needs, the growing food and nutrition ecosystem also contributes to our broader effort to build Singapore as a Global-Asia Node of Technology, Innovation and Enterprise. We partner companies globally and in Asia to explore new growth areas, to serve Asia and the world. We hope our efforts can, over time, also strengthen food security in the region.
c. This growing ecosystem offers opportunities for companies such as Evonik to develop new partnerships in Singapore, and enter new business and technology areas. When companies work together, you build on each other’s strength. This not only benefits the companies, but will also strengthen and add vibrancy to the ecosystem over time.
The role of industry in growing the economy, creating jobs, and upskilling our workers
12. The third development that I would like to share is the role of the industry in growing the economy, creating jobs and upskilling our workers.
13. Growing the economy and ensuring that economic growth benefits the large majority of workers, is a complex and difficult endeavour. Several developed economies have struggled in this aspect. As a result, the social compact in these economies has been affected.
14. In Singapore, the Future Economy Council – which I chair – is tasked with this responsibility. The Government cannot tackle this alone.
a. We therefore bring our business leaders, trade associations and chambers, and unions together to build our future economy together. We are focusing our collective effort at the industry level, to help businesses in each sector succeed and to create good jobs for our people and people all around.
b. Each company will also have to play its part – to transform its business to create new value, upgrade existing jobs, and upskill its workers to take on these better jobs.
15. The Energy & Chemicals industry, to which Evonik belongs, is a significant contributor to the Singapore economy.
a. As in many other industries, technological advancements and digitalisation are making their impact felt in this industry.
b. Evonik is a good example in this industry that has been innovating and leveraging on technology, that others can learn from.
16. Evonik’s methionine operations have created skilled jobs that are suited to the aspirations of Singaporeans from our universities, polytechnics and ITEs.
a. This new Me6 plant will create over 100 new jobs.
b. The new jobs include lab technicians, process technicians, and engineers in maintenance, environmental, safety and health domains.
c. The nature of these jobs is highly-digitalised and technological.
i. As an illustration, Evonik’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will feature an upgraded centralised process control room that digitally monitors all plant operations, as well as an automated yard management logistics system.
17. I am glad that Evonik has created customised and detailed training programmes
to ensure that its employees have the necessary skills to take on these jobs.
a. The training comprises a mix of on-the-job training in the methionine plant, classroom training, and training with virtual tools.
b. This has allowed Evonik to continually upgrade the skillsets of existing employees. It has also enabled Evonik to integrate new hires quickly into their new roles.
i. For example, Ms Celine Fah started her career as a technician in the Energy & Chemicals sector. To upgrade herself, she took up classes at NUS and worked towards a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Following graduation, she applied to be an engineer with Evonik, and became Evonik’s first female engineer working in the methionine plant in Singapore.
ii. Another example is Ms Thayanithi Ganesh. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. With on-the-job training, she is now the Lab Manager of the production lab for both methionine plants. This lab is one of Evonik’s largest labs globally. Her job entails overseeing the strict quality control process for Evonik’s products.
18. Over the years, Evonik’s growth in Singapore has also created other new kinds of jobs beyond manufacturing jobs.
a. For example, Evonik’s Asia Research Hub in Singapore hires scientists and researchers, who work on cutting-edge developments in 3D printing and other areas.
b. Evonik has also set up its Regional Headquarters here. Evonik hires about 200 individuals across functions such as marketing, sales and human resources. These roles require employees to work with production sites, sales offices, and technical service centres across more than 10 countries in the ASEAN, South Asian, as well as Australia and New Zealand regions.
19. Evonik’s operations and expansion have brought new opportunities and benefits to our people and people in the region.
a. I encourage other companies to embrace innovation, talent development and the upskilling of their workers, as they continue to grow and transform their operations in Singapore.
b. I also encourage Singaporeans to continue to take advantage of the exciting opportunities in growth sectors such as specialty chemicals, and food and nutrition.
20. Once again, I would like to congratulate Evonik on the opening of the Me6 plant.
21. The opening today marks yet another significant milestone in the partnership between Evonik and Singapore. This milestone is an occasion to reflect on the growing opportunities in Asia for sustainable nutrition, the importance of innovation in ensuring food security, and the role of industry in growing the economy, creating jobs, and upskilling our workers.
22. I wish Evonik continued success in the future.