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Singapore well-stocked with rice; supplies secure

There is no shortage, say importers who have lined up contracts. In Kaki Bukit, sacks and sacks of rice from around the world are piled almost two storeys high. -ST
Jessica Lim & Tessa Wong

Thu, Apr 03, 2008
The Straits Times

THE fragrance of rice hits you once you step into the warehouse.

Here, in Kaki Bukit, are sacks and sacks of rice from around the world, piled almost two storeys high.

The concrete-floored warehouse is one of three which stockpile rice, enough to last three months. The others are in Pasir Panjang and Senoko.

There is no shortage in Singapore now, importers said, although supplies are getting more difficult to come by as some rice-producing countries have imposed export controls.

Mr Jimmy Soh, managing director of rice importer Chye Choon Foods, said his shipments of rice have arrived from Thailand without a hitch.

Although concerned that Thailand, Singapore's biggest supplier, may restrict exports, importers have been quick to secure contracts, even at a premium, to ensure a smooth flow.

Two days ago, rice importer Goh Hock Ho paid US$820 (S$1,130) per tonne for Thai rice although he signed a three-month contract for US$570 per tonne last month.

Said Mr Goh, managing director of Saga Foodstuffs Manufacturing: 'If we refuse the new price, the exporters will stop supplying us. Last year we signed contracts where prices stayed constant for three months to a year. Now we have to top it up.'

Despite the price rises, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran assured Singaporeans at the weekend that the rice supply is adequate.

In the Philippines and Thailand, however, efforts have begun to stop hoarders and illegal traders from driving up prices.

The Philippine authorities yesterday ordered police to arrest hoarders and illegal traders, while the Thai government has released rice from its stockpiles to ensure supply to the poor.

Although Singapore has not had to dip into its stockpile, supermarkets and provision shops are reporting brisk sales.

At NTUC FairPrice - the biggest chain with 80 outlets - rice sales went up 50 per cent over the weekend, after it raised the prices of its cheaper house brands by 10 per cent to 15 per cent, said a spokesman.

At FairPrice's Ang Mo Kio Hub outlet, staff are now restocking shelves twice a day, instead of once.

Buying three 10kg sacks of premium Song He rice for about $60 yesterday was 63-year-old retiree S.P. Chan.

'Prices are increasing and everyone's buying more, so I thought I'd better get a spare bag for myself in case they're sold out soon,' he said in Mandarin.

'I'm getting another bag for my daughter because her favourite brand at her local supermarket is sold out already.'

There is no need for frenzied buying of rice, said Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

Case officers who visited supermarkets in the last two days found them well-stocked.

'There is sufficient rice to go around,' he said. 'It is not advisable to hoard. The more you hoard, the more you are artificially boosting demand and prices increase even more.'

limjess@sph.com.sg

twong@sph.com.sg

HIGH FOOD PRICES? INVESTORS PARTLY TO BLAME

 


HOARDING UNNECESSARY

'There is sufficient rice to go around. It is not advisable to hoard. The more you hoard, the more you are artificially boosting demand and prices increase even more.'

MR SEAH SENG CHOON, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore

 
 
 
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