SINGAPORE – Most wholesalers and retailers received their goods from Malaysia as usual on Wednesday morning (March 18), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said, reporting on the cross-border movement of supplies on the first day after Malaysia’s lockdown started at midnight.
Products such as pharmaceuticals and infant diapers have also been allowed through the checkpoints, although there has been feedback from companies that some trucks bearing non-food supplies have not been let through, he said in a Facebook post.
“I’m glad to see that the supply of fresh food has not been fully disrupted… We are monitoring the situation closely and are in touch with our Malaysian counterparts to ensure that food and other supplies will be able to come through to Singapore,” Mr Chan said.
His update comes a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said an agreement had been worked out with Malaysia over the continued movement of cargo between both countries during the lockdown that is expected to last till the end of the month.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country on Monday night, sparking concerns among Singaporeans that regular food imports from Malaysia could be disrupted.
Singapore imports about 37 per cent of its chicken supply and 15 per cent of its fish from Malaysia, among produce like eggs, vegetables and milk.
Mr Chan said he spoke to Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali on Wednesday afternoon.
“We both noted that it is in our mutual interest to ensure that supply chains remain robust and in working order, and agreed that we must maintain confidence in our people and businesses in order to successfully overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19,” Mr Chan said.
He added that economic agencies are working with companies to minimise disruption to supply lines, with some companies already having activated sea and air freights to bring in sufficient supplies.
When The Straits Times visited several wet markets on Wednesday morning, stall owners generally said they had no problem receiving fresh supplies, although fishmongers in a few places said their supplies had been halved.
A 43-year-old fishmonger at Ghim Moh Market, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, said he received about 30 to 40 per cent fewer fish than usual.
“Some of the suppliers and their staff were not able to unload the fish here. It’s more difficult for fresh food because we need the supply to come in on a daily basis,” he said.
Still, Mr Lee Boon Cheow, former president of the Singapore Fish Merchants’ General Association, said: “We are still getting fish from Malaysia at usual prices.
“Singapore also gets its seafood from various other countries such as China and Thailand, so I’m not too concerned about the lockdown.”
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) affirmed that the country’s food supply is not affected by Malaysia’s movement control order.
It also said that based on feedback from importers, there are currently no disruptions to the country’s fish supply from Malaysia.
Its spokesman also said that Singapore imports food, including eggs, chicken and vegetables, from more than 170 countries and regions.
Should one source dry up, it will work with importers to tap on alternative sources and ensure food supply remains stable.
SFA has also been investing in local production to serve as a buffer when imports are disrupted.
In his Facebook post, Mr Chan also noted that some Malaysian workers who have decided to stay in Singapore for the next two weeks have managed to secure accommodation.
The Government is working with stakeholders to provide those without living arrangements here with temporary accommodation. By Tuesday night, about 10,000 workers had received such help, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said.
Mr Chan paid tribute to the estimated more than 300,000 Malaysian workers here. He said: “We thank the Malaysian workers who decided to make this personal sacrifice to ensure that business operations and essential services can continue in Singapore.”