Jurong Fishery Port closure: S'pore has activated other supply routes, says Grace Fu

A woman shopping at the fresh seafood section of a Cold Storage outlet in Heartland Mall on July 18, 2021.
A woman shopping at the fresh seafood section of a Cold Storage outlet in Heartland Mall on July 18, 2021.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The nation has swiftly switched to alternative supply routes after a Covid-19 cluster broke out at Jurong Fishery Port, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Sunday (July 18).

Speaking at the FairPrice Fresh Food Distribution Centre in Tagore Lane, she said that Senoko Fishery Port has been activated, and major wholesalers have also been asked to increase their purchases so that they can continue to supply seafood.

"Our major supermarkets have also increased the stocks so that they can substitute for the wet markets. We've some stocks of frozen and chilled seafood, so we don't expect disruption or our shops to run out of seafood," she added.

The assurance comes after Jurong Fishery Port was closed for two weeks until July 31 to help break the chain of Covid-19 transmission and enable deep cleaning.

It handles about 30 per cent of the country's seafood imports, including those that arrive by land and air, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

The Straits Times has contacted the SFA on how it will be supporting the Senoko port - which has 35 merchants and between 700 and 1,000 customers daily - to ramp up operations. The Jurong facility boasts more than 100 merchants and attracts up to 3,000 customers daily.

The authorities last year announced that the Senoko Fishery Port would be closed by 2023 as patronage had fallen over the years.

Ms Fu also said that a number of fishmongers in wet markets have seen disruptions to their operations as they have been asked to go for testing as a precautionary measure.

The Ministry of Health said on Saturday that fishmongers from all markets will be tested for Covid-19.

A spokesman for FairPrice said, in response to queries from ST, that it immediately contacted suppliers to explore alternatives and boost existing deliveries, following the news on Saturday.

"Additional resources were quickly put in place to receive the fresh seafood as well as manage the increase in demand over the next two weeks," he added.

The fish sold in FairPrice supermarkets are sourced locally and imported from places, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

The spokesman said customers should buy only what they need, and that frozen seafood is available too.

Business is brisk for local fish farms.

Mr Leow Ban Tat, chief executive of Aquaculture Centre of Excellence, which owns floating fish farm Eco-Ark, said sales on its website have doubled since Saturday.

Choices such as grouper and sea bass were snapped up by consumers.

Similarly, the Barramundi Group has enjoyed buoyant sales since the closure of the Jurong Fishery Port. Its sales are conducted online and through supermarkets such as FairPrice, Redmart and Shopee.

Its chief executive, Mr Andreas von Scholten, said: "Our barramundi, which are raised and harvested directly from the ocean and in Singapore waters, allow Singaporeans a certain degree of self-sufficiency and food security in situations like these."

He added that the farm's integrated model has allowed for flexibility to raise production and meet the greater demand.

Chief executive of The Fish Farmer, Mr Malcolm Ong, said demand has doubled since Jurong Fishery Port was announced as a Covid-19 cluster last Friday.

He said: "Since then, my phone has been ringing non-stop. Usually, we harvest the fish when they have grown for 12 months. But during this period, we are harvesting earlier at 11 months so we can continue to supply fresh, safe and quality local fish at affordable prices. We usually plan the harvest according to forecast, but now we are increasing our harvest."

He added that some of the demand is coming from supermarkets. All the local farmed fish species, such as sea bass, golden pomfret, and red snapper, have seen a nearly equal increase in demand, he said.

  • Additional reporting by David Sun