Coronavirus: FairPrice chief urges calm amid panic-buying of groceries; Singapore's food security unlikely to be affected

A queue at the FairPrice Finest outlet at Changi City Point on Feb 7, 2020.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The chief executive of supermarket chain FairPrice, Mr Seah Kian Peng, urged calm on Friday (Feb 7), assuring that stocks of groceries at its stores would be replenished after items began flying off shelves at some supermarkets here.

This comes after the Government announced earlier in the day that it will be ramping up its disease outbreak response to the coronavirus situation by a notch to Dorscon (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) Orange, which is just below the highest level of Red.

The move was made even as three more Singaporeans were confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus but did not have any links to previous cases or travel history to China.

Mr Seah said in a Facebook post on Friday evening that FairPrice has seen a surge and some panic buying of groceries at its physical and online stores on the same day.

Some shelves may be empty as a result, he said, but urged people to remain calm as stocks are being replenished.

Groceries flew off the shelves at FairPrice Xtra in Nex. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Goh

He said: "We have stocks and they are being replenished from our warehouse but if everyone starts to buy a lot more than what they need, there will never be enough. Hence I hope we all stay calm and not get into this mode and behaviour."

For those who have not yet done their grocery shopping, Mr Seah asked for patience.

"Give us some time to replenish the items," he said.

"Let us look out and help each other and I am sure we can ride through this together."

Meanwhile, a Singapore Food Agency (SFA) spokesman told The Straits Times that Singapore does not import livestock or raw meat from China.

But as there is no evidence that infections of the novel coronavirus are associated with the consumption of food, no restrictions have been imposed on food imports from China, she said.

Still, in the event of any food supply disruptions caused by the outbreak, Singapore's food supply is unlikely to be affected, as Singapore imports its food from more than 170 countries.

Customers buying groceries FairPrice outlet near Buangkok MRT. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Ilyas Sholihyn

While fresh food items such as vegetables, fruits and fish are imported from China, the country is not the Republic's only source, said the SFA spokesman.

Such food items also come from other countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States, Australia, and South Africa.

"Diversification has always been one of our key strategies to ensure a secure supply of safe food," said the SFA spokesman.

"Our importers are ready to tap on other available sources should there be a disruption of food supply to minimise the overall impact on our food supply."

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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