SINGAPORE - Supermarket chain FairPrice on Tuesday (March 17) capped the amount of certain essential products which customers can buy, including toilet paper, poultry, instant noodles and rice.
This comes after Malaysia's announcement on Monday night of a nationwide lockdown to prevent further spread of the coronavirus within the country. From Wednesday until March 31, all Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad, among other measures.
The news had Singaporeans flocking to supermarkets to make purchases, worried that food supply from Malaysia will be impacted. The Republic imports more than 90 per cent of its food.
Fresh food items such as vegetables, fruits and fish are imported from Malaysia. But they also come from a wide range of other sources, including China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States and South Africa.
Still, people in Singapore headed to the supermarkets where long queues formed with trolleys filled with fruit, paper products and canned goods, among other groceries.
With the restrictions, each customer can buy up to four units of paper products (toilet paper, facial tissues and kitchen towels), two units of instant noodles or pasta, two bags of rice, $30 worth of vegetables, $30 worth of poultry and 30 eggs.
Notices informing customers of the limits have been placed in FairPrice stores. They urge customers to buy only what they need, saying that supplies of essentials "remain available".
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing took to social media on Monday night to reassure concerned citizens and to encourage responsible purchasing.
In a Facebook post, he wrote that Singapore is "not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers" and that Singapore has a "multi-pronged strategy" to prevent shortages that involves a combination of stockpiling, local production capabilities and diversifying its sources of goods.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday morning, he provided further details, saying that at the national level, Singapore has more than three months worth of stockpile for carbohydrates and more than two months worth of supplies for meat and vegetables.
Besides Malaysia, Singapore’s food imports come from over 170 countries and regions.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he received assurances from Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that the flow of goods and cargo between Singapore and Malaysia, including food supplies, would continue.
While crowds had formed in the supermarkets on Monday night, FairPrice noted in a media release on Tuesday that it was less fervent than a similar episode in early February when the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) was raised to orange.
FairPrice said that “checkout queues were more orderly and customers were also buying more responsibly”.
It added that it practises stockpiling to prevent supply disruptions during a crisis and that it has increased its inventory holding for certain categories of products. It has also stepped up delivery runs from its multiple warehouses in Singapore.
“FairPrice stands ready to ensure daily essentials remain available for Singapore. While there may be concerns regarding the latest movement restriction order from Malaysia, we want to assure Singaporeans that we have sufficient stocks,” said Mr Seah Kian Peng, chief executive of FairPrice Group.