JOHOR BARU: Vegetable exporters sighed with relief yesterday as Singapore allowed produce to be sent to two other wholesale markets following the closure of the Pasir Panjang market since Saturday.
But Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (Sava) has instructed that only lorry drivers who have not been to the Pasir Panjang market between April 5 and 19 be allowed to send the produce.
Singapore closed the Pasir Panjang market for 10 days following a probable Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome case involving a 72-year-old worker who fell ill on Friday.
Malaysian Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association president Tan So Tiok said he was informed by Sava yesterday that wholesale markets in Joo Chiat and Toa Payoh could take in more vegetables to meet demand.
“We are pleased that Singapore has taken steps to ensure adequate supply of food and vegetables to its people. This means we do not have to worry about too many unsold vegetables.
“At this moment, we do not know how much extra they will be taking but it will certainly help.
“Places like hypermarkets, Cold Storage supermarkets and NTUC-owned supermarkets have increased orders by 20% to 30% to meet demand,” he said.
About 350 lorries or 10,000 baskets of fruits and vegetables are sent to Singapore daily.
Tan clarified reports that the closure of the Pasir Panjang market had caused a glut of unsold vegetables saying that there was no excess as the rainy season had hampered harvesting.
He said vegetables which could not be sold at Pasir Panjang were disposed of at local markets.
“The shortage is not too bad but the supply is lower than normal. Fortunately, we have vegetables ready to be sold.
“Farmers, knowing that the closure might cause a slight surge in supply took the right move of not harvesting the produce for the past two days so that vegetables which are already harvested can be sold,” he said.
In Ipoh, Malaysian Federation of Vegetable Farmers Association secretary-general Chay Ee Mong said drivers would be screened for SARS symptoms before entering the markets.
He urged farmers associations exporting to Singapore to submit their applications to Sava.