SINGAPORE - Supermarket operators assure customers that there are sufficient stocks of fruits and vegetables in store, reminding them to buy only what they need.
The announcements by NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Shiong Group and Dairy Farm International retail group, which owns supermarkets Cold Storage and Giant, follow the temporary closure of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.
The wholesale centre is closed from Monday (Sept 27) to Wednesday for cleaning and disinfection after Covid-19 cases were detected among workers and visitors. It is expected to reopen on Sept 30 at 3pm.
The Health Ministry had identified 64 cases in the cluster as at Sunday night.
Of the cases, 59 are workers at the market, three are trade visitors and two are household members of cases.
FairPrice said in a Facebook post on Sunday night that to cater to an anticipated increase in demand, the supermarket chain has increased the supply of fruit and vegetables to its stores islandwide.
It added that its "robust and diverse supply lines for fruits and vegetables remain intact" and reminded customers to "only buy what they need".
A spokesman for FairPrice said it is already seeing a 10 to 15 per cent increase in demand for fruit and vegetables as compared with last week.
FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said in a Facebook post that the supermarket gets supplies directly and has its own fresh food distribution centre.
A spokesman for the Dairy Farm International retail group said it has not seen a surge in store traffic.
"Our supplier base is diversified to ensure sufficient supply across our stores and we would like to assure customers that our stores have been minimally affected by the closure of the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre," added the spokesman.
Similarly, in a Facebook post on Sunday night, supermarket operator Sheng Shiong Group wrote that it is "working hard to ensure that all our stores remain well stocked with timely deliveries of fresh vegetables and fruits".
Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association chairman Tay Khiam Back said some suppliers and vendors would inevitably be affected by the closure of the wholesale centre.
He said: "The mid- to bigger-sized suppliers usually have warehouses outside of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, so they would not be that badly affected. But smaller suppliers who only have facilities at the wholesale centre would have to close for three days."
He added that the closure has created some inconvenience for suppliers and vegetable vendors as the news reached them only on Sunday afternoon.
Some affected sellers, like Aw Guan Hong Vegetable Wholesaler, are planning to close their shops for a few days until the wholesale centre reopens.
A spokesman for Aw Guan Hong, which has its office in the wholesale centre but runs market stalls as well, said: "We're planning to close from Tuesday to Thursday and resume selling on Friday afternoon because it is hard to get our stocks out of the wholesale centre now.
"We could not plan for this because we only knew late on Sunday."
Mr Mervyn Wong, manager of online retailer MarketFresh, said: "We get our supplies from the vendors at Tiong Bahru market. We have stopped selling vegetables on our website until the vegetable vendor resumes business.
"For now, he will be closed from Tuesday to Thursday."
Others like Yayapaya, a fruit and vegetable distributor based in Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, which supplies to FairPrice, among others, have seen a slight uptick in sales on Monday.
Orders have doubled "because it is the last day to stock up on things", said managing director Kelvin Chye.
"The closure is only for three days so it's not so bad... We can keep things in the cold room, but there will be no sales for the next three days," he said.
While Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre has a large concentration of wholesalers in one location, there are many other smaller warehouses and major supermarket chain-owned distribution centres around Singapore.
Some suppliers also import produce directly from overseas.
However, Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, located in the south-west of Singapore and spans about 15ha, is an important supplier of vegetables, fruit and dried goods.
It handles about 30 per cent of Singapore's fruit imports and 50 per cent of vegetable imports, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said on Sunday.
Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, said workers there could have been exposed and infected by Covid-19 elsewhere.
He said: "This is the reality with the highly transmissible Delta variant, that people could be exposed in many settings, and subsequently spread the virus to people in the same households or in the same workplaces."
He added that the manner of spread at the wholesale centre could be similar to what happened at the Jurong Fishery Port.
The cluster of more than 1,100 cases at the port was believed to have been the result of mask slippages and workers taking breaks together.
Prof Teo also added that the three-day closure at the wholesale centre would be "modestly useful" to stop further transmissions for the time being.