Monday, June 09, 2008

Some food prices to go up in S'pore

By Elysa Chen

June 08, 2008

THE fuel hike in Malaysia is expected to hit pockets in Singapore.

Pricier M'sian petrol, more expensive food? Singaporeans may soon be feeling the pinch not just with their petrol prices, but the price of their favourite gastronomical delights. -- Picture: MOHD ISHAK
With a 40 per cent jump in petrol prices, prices of fruits and vegetables there have also gone up overnight, by 10 to 20 per cent, The Star reported online.

Prices are set to go up as the cost of transporting them rises.

And it's not just produce.

Importers said eggs and live poultry from Malaysia will cost 10 to 30 per cent more from as early as next week.

This includes vegetables as well.

Singapore gets 46 per cent of its vegetables from Malaysia, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said.

While most wholesalers in Singapore said that they would try to absorb the costs in the short run, some, such as Mr Darren Toh, said a price increase may be the only way to survive.

Mr Toh, 27, director of Yan Chuan Roaster, a wholesaler of roasted poultry in Singapore, said: 'If I keep charging $13.90 for my whole ducks, I won't be able to survive. I will have to start charging $16 for a whole duck by the end of the year.'

He added: 'This price increase in petrol is very bad for us. We are not only paying around 10 per cent more for transport costs, chicken feed also costs more. My suppliers in Malaysia are already charging us 30 to 50 cents more per kg.'

Mr Joseph Heng, the president of the Poultry Merchants' Association in Singapore, has advised his members not to increase their prices for the time being.

He said: 'We will absorb the price increases as much as possible. It is not fair to the consumer if we increase our prices today just because diesel prices have increased.

'I expect price adjustments, but we will adjust it such that it will still be at a price that consumers are comfortable paying.'

Projecting an estimate of how much prices would increase, Mr Heng said that if petrol prices kept increasing in Malaysia, we could expect a 3 to 4 per cent hike in prices of poultry.

For wholesalers, the cost of every kg of duck brought in from Malaysia is now $5.20, while chicken costs $4.20 per kg.

A 4-per-cent hike in the prices would see duck prices increasing 20 cents to $5.40 per kg and chicken 15 cents to $4.35 per kg.

Sheng Siong supermarket, which sells many products from Malaysia, is also adopting the same wait-and-see approach.

Mr Wong Heng San, a spokesman for the supermarket chain, said: 'We are not sure how much prices will increase, we will only be able to tell the effect within the next few weeks. So far, we have not heard from our suppliers yet, but I am sure that being an open market, everyone has to compete to keep their prices low.'

Ms Shirley Lim, who has been working in administration and accounts at At Thoa Vegetable Wholesaler in Singapore for the last five years, said that the recent hike will affect them 'quite a lot'.

Three years ago, it cost 10 cents per kg to transport its supplies from Malaysia to Singapore. Transport now costs 22 cents per kg, but Ms Lim estimates that this will increase to 25cents per kg after the petrol hike in Malaysia.

At Thoa has three lorries that bring in vegetables from Malaysia every day.

Ms Lim expects the company's transport costs to increase to $30 a day, up from $23 a day now.

However, the wholesaler will not be increasing prices yet.

Ms Lim said: 'If we raise our prices, no one will buy from us!'

AVA said it is looking to other countries, such as Vietnam, to diversify food imports.