Food sellers and bakeries struggling to keep prices low amid growing cost pressures

Prices of raw materials for food sellers and bakeries have spiked and other costs, such as manpower or utility bills, have also risen significantly. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Food sellers and bakeries here are struggling to keep prices of their goods affordable amid mounting pressure on their operating costs.

Prices of raw materials such as cooking oil have spiked, and other costs, such as manpower or utility bills, have also risen significantly in the past few months, they said.

Ms Linda Tan, 58, a hawker who runs Swatow Wanton Noodle in Bedok, said: "Hawkers are really suffering, given how things like gas, water and electricity prices have all gone up."

About three months ago, she decided to raise the price of her noodles by about 50 cents, but even that has not been sufficient to cover her higher operating costs.

Prices of edible oils - such as soya bean and palm - have soared after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the price of palm oil more than doubling since the middle of June last year, Bloomberg reported in March.

The war has also impacted global energy prices, with Brent crude oil up by 33 per cent and natural gas by 80 per cent this year.

Russia and Ukraine are both major global exporters of grains and edible oils, while Russia is one of the world's largest exporters of natural gas and oil.

Mr Douglas Ng, 31, owner of The Fishball Story in MacPherson, said he had to raise the price of a bowl of noodles by 40 to 50 cents about a month ago after his utility costs more than doubled and cooking oil prices also went up significantly. Manpower costs are also rising, he added.

Bakeries here are also finding it difficult to maintain their prices after being hit by rising costs of commodities such as eggs.

However, the spike in wheat prices since India imposed a ban on its wheat exports last Saturday has had little to no impact on bakeries.

Mr Alfred Chan, who owns bakery Fredo's in Clementi, said flour prices have increased by about 60 cents per kilogram but will have minimal impact on him as flour can be bought in bulk and kept for a long time if it is stored properly.

Chicago wheat futures rose by about 6 per cent on Monday (May 16) to US$12.47 a bushel, their highest level in two months.

The price of eggs has fluctuated, rising from about $3.80 per tray to about $5, Mr Chan added. Costs of other raw materials, such as butter, have also gone up.

Ms Karen Lim, who owns Raintree Bakery and Coffee in Tampines, said prices of her supplies have been rising since the Russia-Ukraine war, with egg prices up by nearly 50 per cent.

Ms Lim, who raised prices of all items in her shop by 10 cents during Chinese New Year in February, added: "We might have to raise prices again if we cannot sustain the higher costs, but it depends on what our customers can accept. Of course, we hope that prices will stop rising, but it does not look like they will."

Some consumers, like Mr Timothy Cheong, are feeling the pinch. The 55-year-old, who works in administration, noted that groceries in the supermarket are more expensive now.

"The cost of living has definitely gone up. Just buying the same three dishes at the economy rice stall shows an increase of 30 to 50 cents," he added.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.