SINGAPORE - Consumers had to pay more for some of the final batches of fresh chicken on Wednesday (June 1) - the first day of Malaysia's chicken export ban.
"It was $4.90 to $5 for 1 kg (of chicken) previously, but now, it's about $6," said Madam Amy Wong, a 67-year-old housewife who buys chicken regularly at Bukit Batok East Market, on Wednesday morning.
Ms Marie Liew, a financial service intern who was eating chicken rice at Maxwell Food Centre on Wednesday afternoon, said: "I used to pay $3.50 for a small plate of chicken rice. Today, I paid $4.
"It's not a huge increase, unless we look at it in percentage points, but I understand that owners (of stalls selling chicken) still have to make a living," the 22-year-old added.
Chicken also costs more online. Checks by The Straits Times on price comparison app Price Kaki showed that the prices of fresh chicken originating from Malaysia at online supermarket RedMart have increased. For example, Kee Song fresh chicken thighs are now $4.25 for a 300g piece, up from $4.
The increases come amid chicken sellers in Singapore facing higher supply costs, although some of them said they have tried to avoid passing the costs to consumers.
On Wednesday, ST visited Ghim Moh Market, Bukit Batok East Market and Tiong Bahru Market in the morning, and Maxwell Food Centre during lunchtime to speak to sellers as well as consumers.
Mr Vincent Liow, owner of Ken & Vin Fresh Poultry at Ghim Moh Market, said his supplier had increased prices.
"The suppliers increased the price, and with the ban, they won't lower it... But as sellers, we also think it's too expensive (for the customers)," the 47-year-old stall owner said.
"For a chicken leg, last week my price went up to $4, but I pushed it back down to $3.50 today to make it cheaper for my customers. We'll just profit less," said Mr Liow. Before the ban was announced more than a week ago, one chicken leg was selling for $2.50.
Malaysia is facing a chicken shortage, with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announcing on May 23 that it will halt the export of up to 3.6 million chickens a month from June 1, until domestic prices and production stabilise.
Some sellers who are more dependent on Malaysian suppliers said they are ceasing operations for a month.
Mr H.S. Chng, 58, who owns Ngoh Kia Seafood at Bukit Batok East Market, said the fresh chicken stocks he has will last until Thursday at most. "After that, if we cannot get stocks for fresh or even frozen chicken, we would have to stop selling."
This is the case for Mr Peter Toh, owner of Heng Huat Fresh Chicken at Ghim Moh Market. Wednesday would be the 52-year-old's last day of operating his stall before he takes a break, as he would not be getting any more fresh chicken supplies.
"I'll sell only fresh chicken, not frozen chicken," he said.
He added that there would likely be stock on Thursday from the chickens that were brought in before the ban, but many sellers would be trying to get their hands on the remaining stock.
But consumers did not seem to be rushing to buy the remaining stocks of fresh chicken on Wednesday. There were no long queues for chicken at both the markets as well as the food centre when ST visited them.
Meanwhile, chicken rice sellers said they are preparing to sell frozen chicken once their fresh chicken supplies are exhausted in a few days.
Mr Jason Teo, 52, who runs chicken rice store 888 at Ghim Moh Food Centre, is one of the sellers who will be using frozen chicken in his chicken rice dishes.
"I called my supplier yesterday and he told me that these two days there would still be fresh stock for me. But after that, we'll all have to use frozen chicken. I'll also have to test recipes," he said.
Despite the efforts of importers who had encouraged their clients to buy chicken parts instead of the whole bird, Mr Teo said it was difficult to adapt to this change.
"Even if I buy the chicken parts (instead of the whole bird), it's very difficult to cook, as the timings for cooking would be all different. This is especially hard for roasted chicken," he said.
However, despite the export ban, poultry sellers like Mr Win Hong, who runs Winthrop Hong Group at Ghim Moh Market selling mainly organic chicken, said consumers should not worry.
"There is still chicken in stock. The local companies were slaughtering many chickens last night, around the clock they are working for the people and thinking of the people and us sellers are not trying to make big money, enough profit will do," he said.
He added: "Customers don't need to panic. There's still a lot of chicken available."
Consumers interviewed also said they are open to frozen options.
Regional sales manager Chriz Low, 39, was getting chicken rice from Heng Heng Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre.
He said: "I prefer fresh chicken, but if the taste of frozen chicken does not vary too much from the taste of fresh chicken, I am okay with it... otherwise, I will wait until fresh chicken is imported again.
"I believe that Singapore will still import chicken from other sources."