Coronavirus: Ample stock in Singapore, no need to hoard, says FairPrice group CEO

Sacks of rice, instant noodles and other food items at NTUC Fairprice’s Benoi Distribution Centre on Feb 8, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
A worker moves stacks of paper products at NTUC Fairprice’s Benoi Distribution Centre on Feb 8, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Workers moving cartons of food items at NTUC Fairprice’s Benoi Distribution Centre on Feb 8, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Buy what you need, without hoarding, as there is enough stock in the inventory, said supermarket chain FairPrice's group chief executive Seah Kian Peng on Saturday (Feb 8).

FairPrice's existing inventory includes over nine million rolls of toilet paper, 1.2 million packs of instant noodles and four million kg of rice, with more coming in through routine daily shipments, he added.

"If you want to buy a little bit more, go ahead, but there's no need to create a stockpile at home because if everyone is trying to do it on the same day and at the same time, it adds strain to the system," said Mr Seah.

"If you don't have to buy (your groceries) today or tomorrow, you can buy any day of the week because we have plenty of stocks."

He was speaking to the media at the NTUC FairPrice's Benoi Distribution Centre, one of three distribution centres, on Saturday (Feb 8).

On Friday, hours after Singapore raised its disease outbreak response to the coronavirus situation by a notch from yellow to orange, items began flying off shelves at supermarkets across Singapore.

Non-perishables such as rice, instant noodles, toilet and tissue paper were wiped out within hours in some supermarkets.

The demand for rice increased five times while instant noodles was four times and toilet paper 2.5 times on Friday, he said.

But FairPrice has already gradually increased incoming supply from suppliers by three times, in part as preparation for the Chinese New Year, a usual practice, added Mr Seah.

Remote video URL
Remote video URL

Outgoing supply - from the distribution centres to stores - have also increased two-fold.

Yesterday's supermarket frenzy was something he "did not expect", but Mr Seah stressed that there is an ample stock of essential supplies and food to go around.

At the moment, Mr Seah said there is no need for a price hike.

"We are here to help moderate the cost of living so we always try to hold the prices as stable and as affordable as we can," he added.

But he does not rule out the possibility of placing buying limitations on certain products if the overbuying situation does not ease, without specifying which items.

As staff race to restock the shelves, he asked that shoppers be patient as more manpower has been activated to step up to the demand.

Lead hand logistic assistant Yusman Ahmad, 48, said this was one of the busiest periods ever in his 26 years working in the FairPrice distribution centre. Sunday is his rest day, but he is on standby to come back to work.

He said: "Usually it's only this busy leading up to Chinese New Year, now even though the festive season is ending, it still feels like it's Chinese New Year but it's okay, it's my job."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.