SINGAPORE - Several wet markets and supermarkets saw their shelves cleared of fresh chicken on Wednesday morning (May 25) as consumers flocked to stock up on the meat.
The increased demand comes on the back of Malaysia announcing that it will halt the export of up to 3.6 million chickens a month from June 1, until domestic prices and production stabilise.
At wet markets in Bedok, Ghim Moh, Bishan and MacPherson, poultry stalls said they were sold out from between 8am and 9.30am, at least three to four hours before they usually sell out.
Poultry sellers such as Chop Eng Huat at 216 Bedok North wet market sold out by 9am on Wednesday. It typically sells out only at noon.
"I was very busy today. I have not even had a sip of water," said Madam Tan Mei Inn, 50, who runs the stall.
She said her customers bought twice or even thrice as much chicken today, with some purchasing three to four chickens at one go.
"I had one customer who bought almost $300 worth of chicken and chicken parts... Usually customers don't buy that much at one go," she said.
Business increased by about 50 per cent at 89 Kampong Chicken and Duck stall, also at the same wet market, which sold out by 9.30am.
Stall owner Yeow Wei Min, 61, said he is not raising prices as his supplier has not increased prices yet.
"However, I have let my old customers reserve chickens for the next day," said Mr Yeow, who added that some customers were already buying three times as much as they usually buy.
Most wet market poultry stall owners The Straits Times spoke to are not planning to restrict how many chickens each customer can buy yet.
"There is no limit to how much one customer can buy, but if a customer orders too many at a time from my stock, I'll (step in) to regulate," said Mr Vincent Liow, 47, owner of Ken & Vin Fresh Poultry in Ghim Moh.
Fresh chicken was also sold out at most supermarkets that ST visited on Wednesday morning.
Several Sheng Siong, FairPrice and Giant outlets in the Bedok area ran out of fresh chicken by 9am, with only frozen chicken items left.
When ST visited Giant in Simpang Bedok at around 11.30am, there were only a few boxes of chicken parts such as feet, mid-joints and bones left. Fresh whole chicken had sold out by 8am, according to staff.
However, shelves were fully stocked with fresh chicken at CS Fresh by Cold Storage at Great World City.
ST has reached out to the supermarkets for comment on the extent of the surge in demand for fresh chicken.
Consumers who had missed the early rush for chickens at wet markets and supermarkets did not seem fazed by the lack of them on shelves. But they anticipate that the price of frozen chicken will rise in the coming weeks.
"If there was stock, I would have probably bought one or two more chickens," said Ms Nicole Chia, 46, a salesperson shopping at FairPrice in Bedok Central.
"I was not surprised when I saw that fresh chicken was sold out... but I am not too worried as I can turn to frozen chicken or other types of meat."
Housewife Chen Yu Hsing, 45, who was at Tiong Bahru Market, said: "I guess everyone now is a bit 'kancheong' (Cantonese for 'overly anxious'), and they want to get their hands on chicken before the price goes up, or they're scared it will run out because other people are also rushing to buy it."
All three poultry stalls at the market had shut by 11am when ST visited.
"I can still buy frozen chicken, so I'm not that worried about it," said Ms Chen.
"I just hope the price increase for that is not that bad, though I'm sure it will increase too."
Similarly, Mr Lim Hong Yi, 70, a retired store manager, is in no rush to stock up.
He said: "Chicken, especially the type you buy in wet markets, is bought because you want to eat it fresh... If you buy so much now, what's the point? If you put it in your freezer, you might as well buy frozen chicken, because you can't eat three chickens in one day."
He added: "I won't panic buy. It's not like the last time, where people panic bought toilet paper... At least you can keep toilet paper for a long time, but the chicken you panic buy now will not be fresh when you want to eat it."
Poultry suppliers are also working around the clock to fulfil orders.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, major poultry producer Kee Song Group said it is rushing to fulfil orders in the light of high demand.
The company, which has several chicken farms, said its website is experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic. Besides rearing chickens, it also handles the processing, packaging and distribution of fresh chilled and frozen poultry.
The Facebook post added: "Our entire company is on 24 hours' shift to raise our production volume in the coming days to meet our customers' demand."