SINGAPORE: The republic has temporarily stopped vegetable consignments from Malaysia after a wholesaler at the Pasir Panjang Vegetable Wholesale Market (PPWC) was recently diagnosed with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said he had informed his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Dr Norwawi Effendi, of the market’s 10-day closure, and that all vegetable consignments from Malaysia intended for the PPWC would not be able to enter Singapore during this period.
“I assured him that the vegetables from Malaysia are safe and that we will do our best to increase our supply of vegetables from Malaysia through the supermarkets,” Bernama quoted him as saying, in a statement here yesterday.
As a precaution, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) would screen all drivers and delivery workers transporting vegetables at the Causeway for SARS by taking their temperature and obtaining their health declaration.
Singapore imported a total of 359,350 tonnes of vegetables worth S$282.4mil (RM600mil) last year, with 45% coming from Malaysia, he said.
At the same time, 70% of Singapore’s vegetable imports is handled through the PPWC.
In JOHOR BARU, vegetable exporters are in a quandary over where to dump their excess produce which could not be sent to the PPWC.
Malaysian Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president Tan So Tiok said even though other importers in the republic, such as supermarkets and NTUC, had increased their orders to meet demand, the amount which could not be exported was still high.
In PETALING JAYA, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said it was the prerogative of the Singapore government to impose the freeze.
However, he clarified that it was not done because Singapore did not want to do business with Malaysia, but rather, it was because the republic was trying to control the SARS outbreak in the country.
“When the problem is settled, business will be back to normal,” he said.