Thousands of chickens die in transport following delays at Tuas checkpoint

The chickens died from the heat and the crammed conditions of their transport, say poultry importers. PHOTO: ZB READER

SINGAPORE - Thousands of chickens died last week after long delays at the Tuas checkpoint while they were being transported from Malaysia to Singapore.

Poultry importers told The Sunday Times the chickens died of the heat and the crammed conditions of their transport.

Importers said the congestion was especially bad on Wednesday (Jan 27) and Thursday, but the cargo drivers had been experiencing delays since Monday.

Mr Oh Wei Chiat, chief operating officer at Boong Poultry, said he has about four to five trucks of chickens coming into Singapore from Johor almost every day.

About 200 to 300 chickens, or six to 10 per cent of the chickens in each truck, would not survive the journey.

Mr Oh said: "One reason is due to the heat. They are also trapped in a limited space for a long time. It takes two to three hours to reach the checkpoint, followed by about 12 hours stuck in the congestion. And they are without food and drink, because we don't usually feed the chickens before transporting them."

Mr Johnson Toh, company director of poultry importer Toh Thye San Farm, said about 2,000 chickens died after a delay of between nine and 11 hours at the checkpoint on the two days.

However, the situation has improved since Friday.

Mr Ong Kian Sun, chairman of Singapore's Poultry Merchant's Association, said: "The delays are shorter. But we will have to wait for the next week to see if the situation really improves."

Mr Oh said he has changed his delivery schedules to ensure his chickens have a better chance at surviving.

He said: "Instead of starting the journey in the morning, we will start queuing at the checkpoint from midnight so the weather won't be so unbearable for the chickens."

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Singapore Food Agency said in a joint statement on Friday that the authorities are aware of the congestion experienced by cargo drivers at the Tuas checkpoint.

They said: "The delays were due to a combination of factors. Cargo volume has returned to pre-Covid levels and with the continued closure of Malaysia's Bangunan Sultan Iskandar from 7pm to 7am, as well as the upcoming Lunar New Year, the overall cargo volume is now more concentrated at certain times of the day, leading to traffic bunching."

Congestion at the Tuas checkpoint resulted in thousands of chickens dying. PHOTO: INTERVIEWEE

The authorities added that the Covid-19 testing service provider also encountered technical issues on Wednesday.

Since Jan 22, cargo drivers entering Singapore at land checkpoints have had to take a Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART). Anyone with a positive test is not allowed to enter.

As a result of the technical issues, the service provider had to fall back on manual verification of the test results, which added to the clearance time.

These issues have since been rectified, and further measures have been taken to speed up the flow, said the statement.

Malaysian news outlet The Star also reported that truckers are hoping for both the Malaysian and the Singaporean governments to extend operating hours at the Causeway to ease traffic congestion.

Johor Trucking Association president Novan Hing said on Friday that while the Second Link is open for 24 hours daily, the Causeway operates for only 12 hours between 7am and 7pm.

The hours were reduced in April last year when traffic volume was reduced as a result of Malaysia's movement control order and Singapore's circuit breaker.

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