Long queues form at wet markets following Jurong Fishery Port's closure

Patrons queueing at a seafood stall at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre, around 11am on July 17, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHA HAE WON

SINGAPORE - The closure of Jurong Fishery Port has affected fish suppliers and market stalls, and also caused a bit of anxiety among shoppers, who were seen snapping up fish in wet markets on Saturday (July 17).

Fish suppliers took to social media to announce they would not be taking new orders, while market stalls selling fish sold out early for the day.

A teacher in her 40s, who wanted to be known only as Catherine, was among the early birds who managed to get some fish before the stalls closed.

She said: "I was a little concerned when I heard about the situation. Since I live near Clementi wet market, I come here to buy fish at least once a week, not only for myself but also for my family. I plan to purchase a little more today, perhaps twice the usual amount I buy."

The two-week closure of Jurong Fishery Port from Saturday to July 31 is meant to help break the chain of Covid-19 transmission and enable deep cleaning after a cluster emerged there.

The Ministry of Health on Friday declared a cluster at the port and Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, with a total of seven Covid-19 infections.

Jurong Fishery Port is one of two ports that handles fish supplies into Singapore. It handles around 30 per cent of supplies, according to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). The other is Senoko Fishery Port.

Both ports have sea landings for fishing vessels to unload their supplies. Jurong Fishery Port also handles supplies of fish that come via land and air.

Long queues had formed at fish and seafood stalls at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre and Ghim Moh Road Market and Food Centre when The Straits Times visited on Saturday.

Wet market stallholders fretted about the closure's impact on their business, with some saying they will have to close for the period too since they get their supplies from only Jurong Fishery Port.

Mr Koh Lim Poh, 47, a sales assistant at a fish stall at Clementi market, said the stall usually closes at around noon when supplies are sold out, but he put up the shutters at 9am on Saturday.

"Many people were queueing to buy fish, because my store will be closed for two weeks. I feel disappointed this happened, but there's no choice and I can't help it," he lamented.

A fish monger catering to the long queue of customers buying fish and seafood in Tekka Market on July 17, 2021. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Jurong Fishery Port handles around 30 per cent of fish supplies into Singapore. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Ms Linda Lim, 60, an assistant helper at another fish stall that will also be closed for two weeks, said: "Our supplies are all from the fishery port. Some of the prices of our fish increased today as well. For example, threadfin increased by $2 to $3."

She hopes assistance will be given to affected stalls.

Mr Darius Nah, 26, an owner at another fish stall said he relies solely on fish supplies from Jurong Fishery Port. He had to increase the price of fish by $2 to $3 per kilogram on Saturday morning.

"For the next two weeks, it'll be just like having a holiday - there'll be no fish to sell," he said.

Over at Ghim Moh market, stall owners said they saw twice their usual weekend crowd, with sales increasing by at least 20 per cent.

Mr James Lee, 45, owner of fish stall James Monger said he sold two days' worth of supplies by noon.

He said: "Because of the recent situation, my regulars bought 30 to 40 per cent more."

Ms May Kee, 56, an owner at another fish stall, said her regular customers had purchased twice their usual amount.

A FairPrice spokesman told ST the supermarket chain is working closely with suppliers to explore alternatives and ramp up existing fish supplies.

"Fresh seafood currently remains available in our stores and we also have a wide range of frozen seafood to complement demand. We would like to encourage customers to buy only what they need," the spokesman said.

Dairy Farm Group, which operates supermarket chains Giant and Cold Storage, said: "Whilst the closure of the port will impact seafood supplies over the next two weeks, Dairy Farm is currently working with our diversified supplier base to increase our existing supply and bring to customers what they need during this period.

"We remain committed to keeping the prices of our seafood stable as we understand that these continue to be challenging times for everyone. Customers can rest assured we continue to have fresh and frozen seafood in our stores for purchase."

The group said it will not be placing a purchase limit, but encourages customers to buy only what they need.

"We seek our customers' patience and understanding during this period as the team works hard to meet their needs," it added.

Some suppliers of fresh fish like Lian Huat Seafood announced they will be closed for two weeks.

Meanwhile, frozen fish suppliers took the opportunity to reassure people that there will still be supplies of frozen fish.

SG Food United, a website of local food manufacturers and suppliers, took to Facebook to advertise several frozen fish suppliers people can get their fish from.

An SFA spokesman said Singapore currently imports food from more than 170 countries and regions.

"To ensure the resilience of our food supply, we have adopted a multi-pronged strategy, including import diversification, growing overseas and local production. Consumers can play their part by being open to switching choices within and across food groups, as well as different food sources," the spokesman said.

"While there may be temporary disruptions to the supply of chilled seafood, frozen seafood options remain available to mitigate the shortfall."

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