JAKARTA (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Singapore is exploring the possibility of sourcing chicken from Indonesia after it faced disruption of supply from Malaysia due to an export ban.
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is working closely with the Indonesian authorities "to explore the accreditation of Indonesia as a potential source of chicken import", the agency said in a statement on Wednesday (June 15).
"As part of the accreditation process, SFA conducts documentary evaluations and on-site inspections to ensure that overseas establishments and farms are able to meet Singapore's import requirements and food safety regulations before they can start exporting to Singapore," it said in response to The Straits Times' query.
Indonesia has never sold chickens to Singapore, and has so far only exported salted eggs, totalling around 50,000 each month to its close neighbour.
Indonesia, which is South-East Asia's largest economy, supplies day-old chicks to some neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and also exports frozen chicken and processed chicken produce, such as nuggets and sausages, to several other countries including Japan and Timor-Leste.
Director-general for animal husbandry and health at Indonesia's Agriculture Ministry, Dr Nasrullah, told ST on Wednesday that an SFA team has been in Indonesia since Tuesday to assess some farms, slaughterhouses, processing facilities and other relevant aspects.
On whether Indonesia will export live or frozen chicken to Singapore, how much it can supply and when the export will start, he said: "All depends on the result of the survey."
"If the quality and the price match (Singapore's demand), (the supplies) can enter," added Dr Nasrullah, who goes by only one name.
Indonesian Poultry Breeder Association chairman Achmad Dawami said that the SFA team is carrying out its inspection in regions with high potential to export chicken to Singapore, such as West Java and Central Java. He said that some Indonesian integrated poultry companies, which operate farms and run processing operations, will likely supply to the Republic.
In the past few years, Indonesia has faced an oversupply of chicken, with production at around 15 per cent higher than the domestic demand prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Trade Ministry. The situation was exacerbated during the pandemic, with the surpluses hitting 48 per cent in 2020, and 36 per cent in 2021.
The world's fourth most populous nation of more than 270 million people will need 2.9 billion chickens this year. But with production expected to be 3.8 billion chickens, there will be a surplus of about 900 million, the ministry estimates.
Indonesia's per capita chicken consumption only totalled 8kg last year, lagging behind its regional peers, such as Malaysia (50kg), Vietnam (17kg) and the Philippines (14 kg).
In Singapore, chicken is the most widely consumed meat, with a per capita consumption of 36kg in 2020.
The Republic imported about 34 per cent, or close to 73,000 tonnes, of its chicken supply from Malaysia last year, based on SFA data. Most of the chicken is imported live and slaughtered in abattoirs here.
Singapore also imports chicken from countries such as Brazil and the United States, but a majority of this is usually frozen.
Malaysia had banned chicken exports on June 1 to stabilise production and prices within the country. But it has now partially lifted its ban, allowing poultry producers to sell live kampung chickens to Singapore from Tuesday. It will resume sale of black chickens from Saturday.
Dawami noted that "the most feasible option" for Indonesian poultry companies is to supply Singapore with frozen chickens, which is much less risky than bringing in live birds.
On the obstacles to exporting live chickens to Singapore, he said: "The logistics costs are expensive. The highest risks are the death of chickens during transport and their shrinking weight as they are delivered on ships for a few hours to Singapore."