FairPrice limits purchases of paper products, rice, instant noodles and vegetables amid coronavirus outbreak

A sign informing customers of purchase limits for certain items at a FairPrice outlet near Braddell Road, on Feb 9, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Boxes of instant noodles placed outside a Fairprice outlet in Whampoa, on Feb 9, 2020. ST PHOTO: CARA WONG
Shelves of instant noodles are seen at a FairPrice outlet near Braddell Road, on Feb 9, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Sacks of rice, instant noodles and other food items stacked on pallets at FairPrice's Benoi Distribution Centre, on Feb 8, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Supermarket chain FairPrice on Sunday (Feb 9) said it will be limiting the number of essential items that customers can buy, to ensure that more people have access to these items even as shelves continue to be re-stocked.

Each customer will be allowed to buy only up to four packs of paper products such as toilet paper and tissue paper, two bags of rice and four pillow packets of instant noodles. Each person can also buy up to $50 worth of vegetables.

Customers were informed about these limits via a notice posted at FairPrice outlets.

In the notice, customers were assured that the supply of daily essentials remain available despite the surge in demand, and that the supermarket chain was stepping up delivery runs between its warehouse and outlets.

"We urge customers to buy only what they need and not to stockpile," read the notice.

FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng reiterated in a Facebook post on Sunday evening that the supermarket had ample stocks to feed demand.

The limits had been imposed to allow the supply chain to catch up on its deliveries to the stores, said Mr Seah.

"We had doubled our runs but it is still not enough as the volume of products handled over the last two days are more the peak days of Chinese New Year. My supply chain and whole team are working non stop to try to catch up on deliveries to all our stores," said Mr Seah.

He added that the limits set still ensured adequate supplies for households.

"For example, a 20kg pack of rice can last a family of four up to two months. As for toilet paper, 40 rolls can last us quite a while. So these limits are set to ensure no one can buy up huge quantities and hoard and deprive others as a result. The limits are imposed not because we do not have enough stocks."

This comes after people were seen bulk-buying essentials such as rice and toilet paper over the weekend, after the authorities on Friday evening (Feb 7) said Singapore will be ramping up its disease outbreak response.

A FairPrice spokesperson said: "The additional purchase limits are part of our ongoing efforts to discourage customers from stockpiling. The limits are set just slightly higher than what an average grocery shopper normally buys to give customers greater purchase flexibility. Bulk purchase of vegetables is disallowed to discourage resellers. We urge shoppers to buy only what they need."

The Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) was moved up a notch to orange status, after a number of patients were found to be infected with the coronavirus originating in Wuhan, despite having no known links to previous cases or travel history to China. Dorscon orange means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact but is still under control.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing told reporters at a separate event in Jurong that supermarket chains have increased the supply runs to ensure shelves remain stocked.

He said: "Over the past two days, major suppliers like NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong have doubled, if not tripled the number of supply runs that they are doing. So today, you can see that actually most of the essential items are back on the shelves in adequate quantities."

A notice at a Fairprice outlet in Whampoa informing customers that the supermarket is limiting the number of essential items that they can buy, ST PHOTO: CARA WONG

When The Straits Times visited the FairPrice outlet at Whampoa on Sunday, rice, toilet paper and instant noodles were still available on the shelves.

However, a staff member said that these items had to be restocked almost once every hour during the weekend. Previously, they only had to be replenished twice a day.

Other grocery stores have reported brisk sales.

Ms Lim Kwee Lun, sales manager at Good Luck Supermarket at Block 503, Jurong West Street 52, said most of the shop's bags of rice were sold out by 9.30am on Sunday morning, and that its stock of some dried goods were running low.

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