Singapore (CNN Business)Mohammad Jalehar was a teenager in the 1990s when he heard warnings about looming food and water shortages in Singapore.
“Whenever our government would clash with Malaysia’s, we were told that there would be no more meat or fish or vegetables coming in from Malaysia to feed our families. Water would also be cut off,” he said.
Now in his 50s, the chicken seller who runs a stall with his wife at a wet market in the Bedok South district feels like history is repeating itself.
For decades, Singapore, a rich but land-poor island nation, has relied on its closest neighbor Malaysia for a third of its poultry imports. Every month, about 3.6 million mostly live chickens are exported to Singapore, then slaughtered and chilled.
But Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob last week announced drastic measures: his country would ban live chicken exports to Singapore from June in an effort to tackle a domestic shortage that has sent prices soaring.
The ban is expected to hit Singaporeans hard, not least because the city-state’s de facto national dish is chicken-rice — and aficionados say replacing fresh meat with frozen simply won’t do.
And while the Singapore government has given assurances there will still be more than enough chicken to go around, traders say poultry prices are bound to rise sharply. Currently, traders pay $3 for a whole chicken, but they expect prices to surge as stocks dwindle and that price could soon increase to $4-5 per bird.
Every pinch hurts,” Jalehar said. “Suppliers are telling us to prepare for higher prices. One chicken now might cost a dollar more, but where will I get the extra money I need to buy 100 birds for sale? Will my customers also accept the costs?”
The “chicken-rice crisis,” as it has been dubbed, is just the latest sign of the food shortages that are being felt across the world. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Covid-related supply-chain problems and extreme weather are all contributing to the shortages and forcing prices higher.
In the United States, Asia and Africa, potato shortages have caused fast food restaurants to run out of products like french fries and chips.
In Malaysia, the rising cost of feed has sent chicken prices soaring in recent months and retailers have rationed sales in response.
With the last live chickens from Malaysia arriving in Singapore for slaughter on Tuesday, the city-state is now bracing for its own shortage, which could drag on for months.