SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Chicken rice seller Daniel Tan owns seven outlets selling the popular dish and uses more than 6,000 chickens a month, all imported from Malaysia.
Now, he worries if he can get enough chickens to keep his business OK Chicken Rice going.
On Monday (May 23), Malaysia said it will halt the export of 3.6 million chickens a month from June to address surging prices and the shortage of chickens in the country.
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The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said on Monday night that importers will activate their supply chains to increase imports of chilled chicken from alternative sources, increase the import of frozen chicken from existing non-Malaysia suppliers, or draw from their stocks of poultry.
Singapore imported about 34 per cent, or close to 73,000 tonnes, of its chicken supply from Malaysia in 2021, according to SFA data.
Chicken is also the most widely consumed meat in Singapore, with a per capita consumption of 36kg in 2020.
Almost all of Malaysia's chickens imported to Singapore arrive as live chickens and are then slaughtered and chilled in Singapore.
SFA said: "While there may be temporary disruptions to the supply of chilled chicken, frozen chicken options remain available to mitigate the shortfall."
It added: "We strongly encourage consumers to play their part by being open to switching choices within and across food groups (such as consuming frozen chicken instead of chilled) as well as other sources of meat products. We also advise consumers to buy only what they need."
Tan, 42, said Malaysia has been able to supply the larger 2.3kg chickens that OK Chicken Rice uses. If this supply from across the Causeway is halted, the business would be greatly affected as his staff are trained to use this specific size of chickens.
He added: "We never hired a chef, it took a long time and a lot of mistakes to teach our untrained staff how to cook our chicken. Any changes to the size will fundamentally change the equation of the amount of oil used, strength of the fire, duration of cooking...
"I am worried about my staff... they have told me they are stressed after hearing the news."
Tan’s chicken rice outlets are in places such as Yishun, Ang Mo Kio and Hougang.
He added that the timing could not be worse as he has an eighth outlet waiting to open, but he now faces the worst-case scenario of having to close his outlets.