The supply of Singapore’s beloved de facto national dish, chicken and rice, is under threat after neighboring Malaysia banned meat exports in a bid to dampen rising domestic prices.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced last week that the country would block exports of 3.6 million chickens per month from June 1 to stabilize domestic supply. The ban is expected to lead to price hikes and shortages in Singapore, which depends on Malaysia for a third of its poultry imports.
On Tuesday, queues formed outside popular food stalls as the public rushed to buy dishes before the ban was imposed, while local media reported that some supermarkets and wet markets had sold out chicken.
Daniel Tan, owner of a chain of seven stalls called OK Chicken Rice, told Reuters Malaysia’s ban would be “catastrophic” for vendors.
“The ban would mean that we are no longer able to sell. It’s like McDonald’s without burgers,” he said.
Its stalls depend on supplies from Malaysia, which mainly exports live chickens to Singapore, where they are slaughtered. Tan said he would have to switch to using frozen chicken within a week and feared a “sharp drop in sales” as a result.
Some vendors said they would stop selling chicken altogether and find alternative dishes instead – bad news for fans of Singapore’s much-loved dish, poached chicken, served with boiled rice in broth and a dipping sauce. chilli pepper.
The owner of popular restaurant Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice told Singaporean media The Straits Times that he would stop serving chicken dishes if he couldn’t stock up on fresh produce. Its founder, Foo Kui Lian, said they would “rather bring back dishes like fried tofu, fried pork chop and shrimp salad, but we won’t use frozen chicken.”
The Singapore Food Agency has encouraged the public to use frozen chicken, which is imported from countries like Brazil, or try other meats or fish, and refrain from buying more than necessary.
Malaysia is the latest country to introduce protectionist food policies. India banned wheat exports after a heatwave pushed up domestic prices and restricted sugar exports. In April, Indonesia, the world’s biggest supplier of palm oil, blocked overseas sales, citing domestic shortages – although the ban has since been lifted.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened the rise in global food prices, which were already affected by extreme weather conditions and the impact of the pandemic on supply chains.
In Malaysia, chicken prices have soared in recent months and some retailers have rationed sales, in part due to rising feed costs.
Along with the export ban, the Malaysian government also scrapped import permits for chicken and wheat to increase supply, and said it would simplify the process for farmers to get subsidies. Prices in Malay were also capped at 8.90 ringgit (£1.61) per bird in February.