Cheaper ingredients affect food quality

While the drop in fuel prices would result in cheaper transportation costs, other aspects going into the production of food, such as supply of raw goods and labour costs, had not gone down.

Singaporeans must accept that the rising costs of raw materials, rent and manpower will have an impact on food. They cannot expect hawkers to maintain their prices and make up the difference by working harder and selling more food.

I get worried when hawkers say they will look for cheaper ingredients ("Cheap and good: How some hawkers keep their prices down"; Tuesday).

More than 90 per cent of our food is imported, and is subject to market forces where suppliers will sell their best produce to the highest bidders.

Low prices may mean substandard food quality or, worse, tainted goods. Recent reports of "gutter oil" being used overseas are a stark reminder of this.

For hawkers, rental takes up a huge chunk of their income, especially when foodcourt operators try to squeeze more out of them.

The Government has announced plans to build 10 hawker centres - the first new ones in more than two decades - to ensure affordable food remains available and to "exert downward pressure on rents" ("Rentals for hawker stalls cheaper now"; March 13, 2013).

I am afraid this measure is not enough. We need a system that enables hawkers to earn decent profits, so they are not motivated to cut corners to keep prices low.

Liu Fook Thim

This article was first published on Oct 24, 2014.
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