SG Food Story: We will not starve even if not a single morsel of food comes from Malaysia next 2 weeks

By March 17, 2020Current

TL;DR – Malaysia’s PM Muhyiddin has given his reassurance that the flow of goods and cargo, including food supplies, would continue.

So Malaysia dropped a mini bombshell late last night by announcing a national lockdown, which they seem to subsequently have reworded to more a restriction of movement throughout the country from 18 March (tomorrow, Wednesday) till 31 March. Yeps, that’s 14 days, almost like a national Stay-At-Home campaign. In fact, our Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing referred to it as a Movement Control Order.

But oh boy, it will be an understatement to say that this move is both confusing and inconvenient for us here in Singapore.

Mainly, we worry about two things. One, the Malaysian workers who cross the Causeway to work here every day in droves. Two, the supplies of food and essential items.

As of now, not all details are available yet, and Minister Chan said that we’re “in contact with the Malaysian authorities as they work out their operational details”.

So information is still streaming in, do watch for new updates and developments. Meanwhile, our own Government is releasing updates and plans as we go along and also possible options for businesses and people affected by this.

Businesses and employers affected by Malaysia lockdown

NTUC has just updated online that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has worked with the private and public sectors to make available a range of short-term housing options for affected businesses. The accommodations include hotels, dormitories, HDB flats and private residential property.

“Before considering the Government’s short-term housing options, companies should encourage affected workers to stay with their relatives, friends or colleagues for a short period. This may be the most viable option for some workers.

The Government also advises employers to assess their manpower needs carefully and deliberate as to whether they need their affected workers to remain in Singapore.”

Priority will be for essential services, and yes, MOM might be able to provide support and some financial help.

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More information here.

 

Supplies of food and essential items

Minister Chan was quick to go online last night to update the nation about the status and more importantly, to assure all that we do have enough food and essential items, so do not panic and do not panic-buy.

Then first thing very early this morning, Minister Chan met with the media to give an update.

 

I think the most important parts of Minister Chan’s messages are these:

Let me first say that a disruption of supplies from Malaysia is one of the contingency scenarios that we have planned for many years.

As such, we have plans to manage this contingency, with a combination of stockpiling, building up our domestic production capacities, and diversifying our supply sources to many countries

This combination of stockpiling and local production will provide us time to bring in alternative supplies, should our usual supply lines be disrupted, as in Malaysia in the current context.

While we may have to make some adjustments to our choices, we do have sufficient food supplies for all Singaporeans, so long as we buy responsibly.

While we may be anxious individually, we can draw strength as a community; and we must remember to reach out to the weaker and more vulnerable ones in our society.

The latest news is good news from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s tele-conversation with his counterpart in Malaysia, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin has given his reassurance that the flow of goods and cargo between Singapore and Malaysia, including food supplies, would continue.

Anyway, remember dear John Lam who had shared quite some precious posts on his Facebook account, and we’d also republished one of his posts recently?

Singapore has a high record of COVID-19 cases. Are we more dangerous, virus-wise?

John is in the asset management industry and would sometimes make insightful posts about finance and investment related topics. In the past, he has even explained in layman terms the differences between Temasek, GIC and MAS, and also discussed Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC), which is a key contributor to the Government’s revenue to fund our national budget.

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He’s posted yet another gem of a post last night, this time on Singapore’s food story. With his permission, I’m republishing his full post here,

First of all Singapore has at least 3 months worth of food supplies in government warehouses. Even if there is not a single morsel of food entering Singapore for the next 2 weeks due to Malaysia’s lock down, Singapore will not starve. (For those who are mathematically challenged, 3 months is about 6 times longer than 2 weeks)

Secondly, Malaysia is just one of the sources of food produce. There are 11 other countries who are not on lock down where food can be sourced from. (See picture below from SFA)

Thirdly, Singapore has domestic production capabilities in a number of food items such as eggs (27%), vegetables (13%), fish (10%), canned goods, infant powder and many more. We may not be fully self sufficient but we are not entirely dependent on imports either.

Fourthly, Malaysian food exporters will probably be hurt more than consumers in Singapore if they cannot export their food produce. Even if Malaysia’s lockdown applies to food exports, this cannot go on indefinitely without affecting their own local industries. Eventually trade will find a way.

Finally, Singapore has topped the Global Food Security Index for 2 years in a row over the past 2 years. This means that according to the experts at the Economist Intelligence Unit, you are more likely to run out of food anywhere else in the world than in Singapore.

This is not the first time we have been through this. Why would we expect that shelves will not be restocked this time?

Just like the last time when shelves were emptied due to DORSCON levels being raised to Orange, panic buyers will end up with an oversupply of food items in their bomb shelters which they will be stuck with and unable to return. Supermarkets will be restocked in a couple of days and everyone who participated in this panic buying exercise will end up being scolded by Minister Chan Chun Sing for acting like idiots again.

So on behalf of all the charitable organisations who will be receiving an influx of food donations in the coming weeks, I thank the panic buyers of 16/17 March 2020 for your kind donations.

Let’s all do our part. Let’s stop sharing photos of frantic shoppers or long queues at supermarkets because it will only create panic in some less informed people who will in turn rush down to the nearest supermarket to empty the shelves.

Although I have full confidence in our food security, there is a very real (though remote) risk that if a quarter of households went out to hoard 1 years worth of food, 3 quarters of us WILL run out of food until the next shipment of imports arrive from other countries and this new supply will come in at a much higher price point, which will be a terrible inconvenience to almost everyone but could be the difference between ending the month with a surplus or going into debt for those living from paycheck to paycheck.

To prevent that from happening, let’s first take a deep breath, stop panicking and let’s share information about how Singapore has ample sources of food, is probably the last place on Earth to starve and do our part to educate others. Together we will overcome, together we are SG United and together we will have enough toilet paper and food to last us until Malaysia’s lockdown is over.

This is where our food comes from. We have been preparing this for decades. There will be enough for everyone, if everyone buys only what they need. No panic, all trust (via SFA)

 

 

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Maggie O

Author Maggie O

Digital extrovert. Social introvert (warning: 93% introverted!) In the day, I work at the labour movement to put cai-png on the table and ice-cream in the fridge. In the night, I read a lot and write a little. Also, all views expressed in my contribution pieces here are based on my personal opinions, and they do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of my employer (past, current and future).

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