Egg prices soar in Singapore as Malaysia looks to limit exports

Madam X.Y. Loh, 56, runs a small bakery in Jurong, making a variety of cakes, buns and pastries as well as other goodies.

She uses more than 100 eggs daily and they cost slightly over $300 a month earlier this year. But this has doubled and she expects to shell out more than $600 a month by the end of this month.

"I never would have thought that eggs could get this expensive," Madam Loh said. "I might have to raise my prices soon."

The cost of eggs, particularly during festive seasons, can make a real dent in the total earnings of small businesses like hers, she said.

And there is likely to be no respite from the price increases for eggs any time soon, with a major supplier to Singapore warning that exports may be restricted.

On Monday, Malaysia's Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said that the country was looking into limiting, or stopping, the export of eggs. He said that the move was to ensure a sufficient supply for the domestic market.

"We will study if stopping the export is reasonable or not, even if it is for a short term. If it helps to reduce the price of eggs and benefit the people, we will definitely look into it," the minister was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times daily.

He said there was a change in the average price of chicken eggs between mid-last month and this month, when it rose consistently every week in the retail market.

Mr Saifuddin said that residents in Penang, Sarawak and Putrajaya had complained about alleged cartel activity among egg suppliers, which had caused prices to rise in the middle of last month.

He also said checks had been carried out nationwide at the production, distribution and wholesale stages to find out the cause of the price hike.

"If the traders are purposely increasing the price of eggs in order to make exorbitant profits, the ministry will not hesitate to take action under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011," he added.

Local egg farms, such as Seng Choon Farm and Chew's Agriculture, supply 26 per cent of the eggs consumed in Singapore. The rest, or 74 per cent, is imported, and Malaysian farms remain a key source of supplies.

The average Singaporean eats 308 eggs a year, statistics from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority showed last year.

Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News reported earlier this month that the wholesale price of an egg had jumped from 10 cents in April to 16 cents this month.

The report forecast that prices would continue to rise, particularly with a salmonella outbreak in an egg farm in Yong Peng, Johor.

Before exports from the farm were halted, it exported approximately three million eggs to Singapore, about 6 per cent of the Republic's total egg imports.

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