‘Like McDonald’s With No Burgers’: Singapore Faces Chicken Shortage As Malaysia Bans Export
Friday, June 3rd, 2022 | 151 Views
Move to ease inflation threatens city-state’s de-facto national dish of poached chicken and rice.
Supplies of Singapore’s beloved de-facto national dish, chicken and rice, are under threat after neighbouring Malaysia banned exports of the meat in an attempt to ease domestic price increases.
The Malaysian prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, announced last week that the country would block exports of 3.6 million chickens a month from 1 June to stabilise supply at home. The ban is expected to lead to price increases and shortages in Singapore, which relies upon Malaysia for a third of its poultry imports.
On Tuesday, queues formed outside popular food stalls as the public rushed to buy dishes before the ban was imposed, while local media reported that some supermarkets and wet markets had sold out of chicken.
Daniel Tan, the owner of a chain of seven stalls called OK Chicken Rice, told Reuters that Malaysia’s ban would be “catastrophic” for vendors.
“The ban would mean we are no longer able to sell. It’s like McDonald’s with no burgers,” he said.
His stalls rely on supplies from Malaysia, which mostly exports chickens live to Singapore, where they are slaughtered. Tan said he would have to switch to using frozen chicken within the week and feared a “strong hit to sales” as a result.
Some vendors have said they will stop selling chicken altogether and instead find alternative dishes – bad news for fans of Singapore’s much-loved dish of poached chicken, served with rice cooked in stock, and chilli dip.
The owner of the popular eatery Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice told the Singaporean outlet The Straits Times that it would stop serving chicken dishes if it could not get fresh supplies. Its founder, Foo Kui Lian, said they would instead “bring back dishes like fried tofu, fried pork chop and prawn salad, but we will not use frozen chicken”.
The Singapore Food Agency has encouraged the public to use frozen chicken, which is imported from countries such as Brazil, or to try alternative meat or fish, and to refrain from buying more than they need.
Malaysia is the latest country to introduce protectionist food policies. India has banned wheat exports after a heatwave caused domestic prices to soar, and has restricted the export of sugar. In April, Indonesia, the world’s biggest supplier of palm oil, blocked foreign sales, citing domestic shortages – though the ban has since been dropped.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened rises in global food prices, which were already affected by extreme weather and the impact of the pandemic on supply chains.
In Malaysia, chicken prices have soared over recent months and some retailers have rationed sales, partly due to the rising cost of feed.
In addition to the export ban, the Malaysian government has also scrapped import permits for chicken and wheat to boost supplies, and said it will the simplify the process for breeders to secure subsidies.
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