S'pore not in danger of running out of food or supplies: Chan

Shoppers with packed trolleys at the FairPrice outlet in Clementi Central at 12.15am today. The country is not facing any shortages, and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing urged Singaporeans to continue to purchase in a responsible manner and to buy only what they need. “Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient,”he said. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Singapore has a robust, multi-pronged strategy to ensure the country does not run out of essential items, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said last night.

The Republic has built up an inventory of food and essential supplies, he said in a Facebook post shortly after Malaysia announced it would restrict movement throughout the country, as well as in and out of Malaysia, from tomorrow until March 31 to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

"The Government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase our stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months," he said. "This means that we are not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers."

Mr Chan gave this assurance as Malaysia's announcement of the movement control order led to concerns among many Singaporeans over its implications.

Queues also began forming at various supermarkets last night as shoppers snapped up food products and daily necessities.

In his post, Mr Chan also said that Singapore has local production capabilities for products such as noodles, infant milk powder and canned goods, among others.

"In the event that we need to increase supply for our domestic consumption, we can ramp up quickly and easily to do so," he said.

"We have also continued to diversify our sources of essential goods, for example we get a good amount of vegetables from China and even go as far as Australia and Spain to secure our supply of eggs."

Although Singapore is not facing any shortages, Mr Chan urged Singaporeans to continue to purchase in a responsible manner and to purchase only what they need.

"Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient," he said.

Mr Chan also said businesses that employ Malaysian workers who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily may have to activate their business continuity plans.

"If they need assistance, they should contact our economic agencies, who stand ready to assist," he said. Singapore will also continue to stay in touch with Malaysia and ensure that businesses and people are able to continue with their lives and livelihoods, he added.

"I am aware that many of these new restrictions and announcements may be quite overwhelming for many people. I ask for your continued trust and support as we work hard with all stakeholders to ensure that we get through these short-term challenges together."

As news of the restrictions spread, long queues formed as residents rushed to stock up on supplies.

Mr Kelvin Sin, 38, said he rushed to the FairPrice outlet near his Yishun home with his brother.

"Everyone feels nervous. We are afraid we can't get supplies of things like fresh meat," he said.

Madam Catherine Heng, 50, who was at the Giant supermarket in Toa Payoh, said she decided to stock up for the weekend just to be on the safe side, buying potatoes, carrots, spinach and a tray of eggs. "You can't keep fresh vegetables for too long anyway - the only things that can keep are the potatoes and carrots," she added, noting that the restrictions were for only two weeks.

Financial analyst Radhika Singh, 36, said she headed to the supermarket on hearing the news and bought a large tray of eggs, canned tuna, pasta and spinach.

She said she needed to stock up as her three children will be eating most of their meals at home this week, as it is the school holidays.

"This should be enough for two weeks, and hopefully the situation will be resolved by then," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2020, with the headline S'pore not in danger of running out of food or supplies: Chan. Subscribe