S'pore has contingency plans for supply disruption from Malaysia, sufficient stockpile if everyone buys responsibly: Chan Chun Sing

People buy eggs and other groceries at the Hougang 1 outlet of FairPrice Xtra on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A wet market in Clementi as seen on the morning of March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
A wet market in Clementi as seen on the morning of March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Shoppers at a Sheng Siong supermarket in Serangoon North Ave 5 after midnight on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

SINGAPORE - Singapore has made contingency plans for a disruption of food supply from Malaysia and has more than three months' worth of stockpile if Singaporeans buy responsibly, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (March 17).

Employers of Malaysian workers who need to put up their staff in temporary accommodation can also get help from government agencies and trade associations, he said in a doorstop interview on Tuesday.

He gave the assurances following concerns among Singaporeans over the implications of Malaysia's announcement on Monday that it will restrict all movement throughout the country from Wednesday until March 31, to prevent further spread of the coronavirus within the country.

All Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad. For those who are returning from overseas, they must undergo a health inspection and undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

There will also be a ban on all foreign tourists and visitors.

About 415,000 travellers use the land checkpoints between Singapore and Malaysia daily, with these usually increasing during festive seasons.

Mr Chan on Tuesday said that although not all details with Malaysia have been worked out, Singaporeans have no cause for worry as Singapore has plans to manage the situation with a combination of stockpiling, local production and diversification of overseas sources.

He said these various channels will give Singapore time to source for and bring in alternative supplies. He also noted that a restriction of human movement need not necessarily mean a disruption of the movement of goods.

He added: "For carbohydrates, like rice and noodles, we have more than three months' worth of stockpile at the national level... For both proteins and vegetables, we have more than two months' worth of normal consumption.

"For eggs, we have local production and we have activated other air freight options to substitute the Malaysian supplies should they be disrupted."

He said he cannot reveal the actual numbers as it will affect Singapore's negotiations with overseas suppliers.

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On Monday night, there were queues at various supermarkets hereafter Malaysia's announcement, with shoppers snapping up food products and daily necessities.

On the accommodation for Malaysian workers, Mr Chan noted that many employers have been worried since Monday night on how to provide short-term housing for their Malaysian workers in Singapore without living arrangements here, which is estimated to number more than 100,000.

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"During this period, our economic agencies are working with the companies' dormitory operators and hotels to provide options for the companies. So, companies that need help for their workers accommodation can contact economic agencies, and also work with their trade associations," he said.

National Trade Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Tuesday also urged shoppers to remain calm.

He said he is keeping close tabs on the situation with NTUC FairPrice chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng.

He wrote on Facebook: "Buy only what you need please, otherwise we may see some empty shelves again and this in turn will cause unnecessary panic buying."

Mr Chan said he understood the fear and anxiety of Singaporeans and urged Singaporeans who are calm to reach out to those who are nervous.

"While we may be anxious individually, we can also draw strength as a community, and we must remember to reach out to the weaker and more vulnerable ones in our society."

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