Some wet markets see no uptick in business after Jurong Fishery Port reopening

 A seafood stall at Teck Ghee Market and Food Centre, on Aug 3, 2021.
A seafood stall at Teck Ghee Market and Food Centre, on Aug 3, 2021.ST PHOTO: YEO SHU HUI

SINGAPORE - Seafood sellers in wet markets saw few customers on Tuesday (Aug 3) even after Jurong Fishery Port returned to business on Monday night.

The markets were virtually empty as consumers continued to prefer to shop in supermarkets, despite prices of most common seafood like red snapper and grey prawns staying the same.

Mr Tay Hock Seng, 51, who operates a seafood stall at Teck Ghee Market and Food Centre, said of his poor business: "Most of our customers are elderly, and their family members told them not to come out often during this period.

"Because of the barriers and crowd control, people are also less willing to enter the market."

As at Monday night, more than 1,000 Covid-19 infections have been linked to the Jurong Fishery Port cluster, and more than 30 wet markets continued to have active cases.

The surge in cases has put off many patrons, who make little distinction between those who get their supplies from Jurong Fishery Port and those from Senoko Fishery Port, which was not affected.

For instance, Mr Tay gets his produce from Senoko, but has still seen a 70 per cent drop in the number of customers buying seafood from him.

Apart from white pomfret, which has increased from $11 per kg to $14 per kg, the prices for the rest of his seafood have not changed since Jurong Fishery Port was closed two weeks ago.

He said: "I don't want to increase the price of my seafood since everyone is having a difficult time now. Some of them are jobless."

In the same market is Mr Tan Ah Yee, 76, who also chose not to increase the prices of his seafood despite the hard times now befalling him.

Mr Tan, who has operated his stall for 40 years, continues to sell sea bass at $20 per kg, red snapper at $18 per kg and sotong at $12 per kg.

He said: "I have customers who have purchased from me for many years, how can I increase the prices for them? I would rather cover the cost and earn less than increase the prices."

At Chong Boon market in Ang Mo Kio, Mr Tan Seng Hoon, 60, likewise did not see a need to adjust his prices.

He did not have supplies for red snapper, but was well stocked for other common seafood. He sold white pomfret at $13 per kg, sea bass at $10 per kg, and grey prawn and sotong at $16 per kg.

The first day of reopening at Chong Boon Market, on Aug 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Prices of seafood at bigger supermarkets have also stayed the same. Giant, for instance, has kept the prices of everyday essentials like seafood constant since last September, and will maintain this till the end of the year. Sea bass was sold at $8 for two, and vannamei prawns were sold at $10 per kg.

Workers returning to the Jurong Fishery Port on Monday night were greeted by unfamiliar scenes, with much stricter safe management measures now enforced and workers requiring an orange band to get into the premises.

The port handles about 30 per cent of the country's seafood imports, including those that arrive by land and air, leading to the Government reassuring the public that seafood supply in Singapore was still stable during its two-week closure from July 17.

Much stricter safe management measures are now enforced at Jurong Fishery Port. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The Straits Times has reported that many large and small businesses had to scramble for alternative sources of seafood in the last two weeks. Some bought frozen seafood as a way to mitigate the shortfall, even as Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu urged shoppers to widen their choices of seafood.

However, Mr Mike Ong, owner of Reelly Fresh, a frozen seafood stall at Tanjong Pagar market, said he has not seen an increase in his business in the last two weeks.

He chose to sell frozen seafood, as it leads to less wastage when stocks are not sold and is hence more sustainable.

"I used to get about five to six people who buy from me every day, but now I'll be lucky to get even one," he said. "A lot of people have been put off wet market seafood because of what happened."