Chan Chun Sing laughs at his verbal slip after netizens point out that cotton does not come from sheep

PHOTO: Reuters; Unsplash / Martin Schmidli

It was on Saturday (May 30) morning that Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing held an interview with the media over Zoom to speak on the country’s efforts to jumpstart the economy once the circuit breaker ends. 

It was also the day that the minister accidentally blurted out on camera that cotton — the soft natural fibre derived from the seedpod of the cotton plant — came from sheep. 

Asserting the importance of international trade, Chan had brought up how Singapore is able to produce surgical masks domestically but would still need to rely on imported natural resources. 

“Even for a simple surgical mask that has only six parts, which of the six parts will we be able to produce ourself? Which part of the supply chain are we totally independent of foreign resources?” the minister raised. 

“I think I explained to you (about) the three-ply masks. Cotton? Don’t have too many sheep in Singapore to produce cotton,” he laughed. 

In case it's still unclear, sheep produce wool. Both wool and cotton are natural textile fibres, but the former is a scratchy fabric that effectively traps heat while the latter is more breathable and comfortable — thus why it’s a good material for producing face masks. 

Netizens were quick to point out the verbal faux pas, though most weren’t exactly… civil in their criticism. Nonetheless, Minister Chan is well aware of the blunder and took it in stride writing in a follow-up Facebook post that he “had a good laugh too”. 

“In my mind, I have been thinking for weeks of all kinds of substitutes (including wool from sheep and other animals) that we can use for the various parts of the masks that we produce here,” he explained. 

I had a good laugh too when I was told that I spoke too fast in a video interview yesterday about cotton and sheep. To...

Posted by Chan Chun Sing on Saturday, May 30, 2020

“Unfortunately in Singapore, we have neither cotton nor sheep,” he wrote, adding that he should probably “catch up on some sleep”.