Bak kwa prices up? It's CNY demand, say retailers

With Chinese New Year less than two weeks away, long queues can be seen at popular Chinatown bak kwa outlets, such as Lim Chee Guan, whose signature pork slices for the day were sold out by lunchtime yesterday, though there were still many customers
With Chinese New Year less than two weeks away, long queues can be seen at popular Chinatown bak kwa outlets, such as Lim Chee Guan, whose signature pork slices for the day were sold out by lunchtime yesterday, though there were still many customers waiting to purchase other varieties.ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA

Increase not due to recent disruptions in import of live pigs from Indonesia, they say

Recent disruptions in the import of live pigs from Indonesia have had little impact on supply and prices thus far, raw pork and bak kwa sellers say.

With Chinese New Year less than two weeks away, queues have begun to form at popular bak kwa outlets in Chinatown, where prices for the barbecued meat are creeping up.

Retailers, who typically increase prices by a few dollars at this time of the year to cover additional labour and material needs, said bak kwa prices have remained stable this year at $55 to $58 per kg.

Shin Min Daily News reported on Tuesday that some raw pork sellers were concerned about a supply shortage as several recent shipments of live pigs from Indonesia did not arrive.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said Singapore imports live pigs from two sources: Pulau Bulan in Indonesia and Sarawak, Malaysia. The pigs are slaughtered in Singapore and sold here as chilled pork.

"On some days in the past two weeks, there were no imports of live pigs from Pulau Bulan as the importer's barges were delayed," a spokesman said, adding that more pigs from Sarawak were slaughtered to mitigate the supply disruption.

MORE FOR YEAR OF THE PIG

I'm buying more this year to give to family and friends. Hopefully it will bring more prosperity since it's the Year of the Pig.

MS LEE XIN EN, who queued outside Lim Chee Guan's New Bridge Road outlet for five hours to buy 40kg of the sweet meat.

Singapore also imports chilled pork from countries such as Australia and frozen pork from countries like Brazil. The overall supply of such pork in the market has remained stable, the AVA said.

A pork seller at the Chinatown market, who gave her name only as Mrs Poon, said she buys three to four pigs a day from Indonesia, but has not had to increase prices as her supplier has managed to cover the missed shipments.

A spokesman for bak kwa chain Lim Chee Guan said the effect of the disruption has been "manageable" as the firm uses pork from various sources. The price of its traditional sliced bak kwa increased by $6 over the weekend to $58, about the same as last year.

"Whether there will be further increases depends on stock and raw material costs which vary daily, but we try to keep it to the bare minimum," she said.

Kim Joo Guan, which has outlets in Chinatown and Novena, has increased its prices by $3 to $55 per kg for the festive period.

Owner Arthur Ong said the fixed yearly increase is to cover additional packaging and manpower costs. It is unaffected by the supply disruption from Indonesia as it uses pork from Australia.

 
 

Kim Hock Guan, with outlets in Chinatown and Bencoolen, raised its price to $56 per kg two weeks ago.

Traditional sliced pork was selling at $56 per kg at Bee Cheng Hiang and Fragrance outlets in Chinatown when The Straits Times visited yesterday. Staff at both chains said prices have yet to increase, and will likely go up by a few dollars in the coming week.

Lim Chee Guan's signature pork slices had sold out at its three outlets by lunchtime, though dozens of people were seen queueing to buy other varieties.

Ms Lee Xin En, 50, who joined the queue outside its New Bridge Road outlet at about 8am, reached the front of the line at about 1pm and bought 40kg of the sweet meat.

Ms Lee, who works in customer service, said: "I'm buying more this year to give to family and friends. Hopefully it will bring more prosperity since it's the Year of the Pig."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2019, with the headline 'Bak kwa prices up? It's CNY demand, say retailers'. Print Edition | Subscribe