SINGAPORE - A hawker centre that moderates its food prices in a bid to keep them affordable has been generally welcomed by customers.
Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre and Market, managed by NTUC Foodfare and officially opened on Saturday (Aug 6), was among the first of 20 new centres the Government said it would build by 2027.
According to a survey conducted with almost 500 nearby households in the March by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) social enterprise, residents visit the Bukit Panjang hawker centre "regularly", with 43 per cent going there daily.
NTUC Foodfare sets price ceilings for at least two basic dishes at each cooked food stall at the centre, with other prices subject to price moderation.
In setting caps for stalls, it referred to Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) surveys of more than 500 hawker stalls around the island. It also had its own survey of eateries in the vicinity of the centre.
For example, NTUC Foodfare proposed a $2.50 price cap for a plate of chicken rice after finding out that the dish sold for $2.50 to $3 near the centre and between $2 and $4 based on a 2014 Case survey.
NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said at the Bukit Panjang hawker centre's official opening that the centre "is an example of how NTUC social enterprises are widening their social footprint to provide relevant, accessible and affordable services to our working people".
He added: "By putting in place price moderation practices, NTUC Foodfare is able to ensure that good and tasty food is affordable to Singaporeans at the hawker centre."
One resident who regularly visits the hawker centre is Mrs Lim Siok Hauy, 61, a housewife. She lives nearby and has been visiting the centre since it started operations in December last year.
Mrs Lim has breakfast there daily with her family and said the food affordable and the service good.
The centre has stalls open at least six days a week and 12 hours a day to ensure that there are enough food options for residents in the area.
Besides NTUC Foodfare, a subsidiary of Fei Siong Food Management had also been appointed by the National Environment Agency to run Ci Yuan Hawker Centre here. This was part of efforts to keep food affordable and meet other social objectives. The remaining food centres previously announced are in various stages of development.
Also present at the Bukit Panjang hawker centre opening were MPs for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Mayor of the North West District Dr Teo Ho Pin and Foodfare Chairman Mr Chong Kee Hiong.
Out of the 28 stalls in the centre, two are operated by NTUC Foodfare.
They are the drinks stall and economical rice stall Rice Garden, where ComCare cardholders may have a rice meal comprising two vegetable dishes and one meat dish at $1.50 while senior citizens, students, national servicemen and union members pay only $2.
There are 27 Rice Garden stalls in Singapore and NTUC Foodfare aims to raise this number to 40 by the end of this year.