‘Chickening Out’: Malaysia’s Chicken Export Ban

Chickens roaming in a farm

It has been two weeks since Malaysia’s chicken export ban. How is Singapore holding up?

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Malaysia’s export ban on chickens kicked in on 1st June 2022. Malaysia had cited that the ban was invoked to stabilize domestic prices and productions. Some local eateries that relied on fresh chicken initially panicked but scrambled and worked with suppliers to find alternative sources of fresh chicken. The price of fresh chicken went up by as much as $1.20/kg. Yikes. Industry veterans are expecting prices to triple.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) says that one-third of Singapore’s chicken supply comes from Malaysia. Other dominant sources include Brazil and the United States. SFA was quick to react, assuring suppliers that it would activate other supply chains to increase imports of chilled and frozen chickens, or draw from poultry stocks.

Effectively, the only kind of chicken not abundantly available, is fresh chicken. Frozen or chilled chicken would still be available. Some FnB operators were worried as they were afraid that switching away from fresh chicken affects the taste of their food. Others said that they were relatively unaffected as they had been using frozen or chilled chicken all the while.

A particular owner of a chicken rice stall was aghast at the export ban as she relied 100% on the fresh chicken that comes from Malaysia. Fast food chain Arnold’s Fried Chicken faced a chicken breast and rib shortage, but wings, thighs, and drums are still available. That’s not too bad.

Did you know that the average Singaporean consumes about 36kg of chicken per year? That translates to about 572 chicken drumsticks! While our F&B operators panicked, fresh chicken were flying off the shelves too at major supermarkets. Reminiscent of the toilet paper panic buying during the moments before Circuit Breaker measures kicked in? We need to be adaptable – not having fresh chicken is not the end of the world. Frozen/chilled chicken are just fine too.

Organic Kampung Chicken

Netizens flipped the roof when a photograph of a product label of chicken sold at NTUC FairPrice reflected a whopping $72.27. Immediately, accusatory comments criticizing NTUC FairPrice for profiteering amidst this “chicken crisis” in Singapore arose out of nothing but unverified allegations.

NTUC FairPrice issued a clarification later, providing context for the price of the label. It said that the organic kampung chicken was sold at one of their concessionary counters operated by Swiss Butchery. The product is priced at $22.50/kg. The product in fact was a bundle of 2 whole birds together, weighed and priced under the same label.

Formed in 1973, NTUC FairPrice’s formation was aimed at stabilizing the cost of living and preventing profiteering. In the clarification post by NTUC FairPrice on Facebook, netizen “Angela” said that it was appalling for chicken of such price to be sold at NTUC FairPrice. Netizen “C Goh Goh” retorted that if the price is acceptable to a person, then the person would naturally buy it. If you don’t like the price, then don’t buy it.

What a brutal comment from netizen “C Goh Goh”. But I must agree – the natural instinct, if you find something too expensive for your tastebuds, is to look elsewhere for what in Economics term as “substitute”, right? It just seemed like an opportunistic moral crusade against NTUC FairPrice.

Change is the only constant

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cautioned that this would not be the first or last food supply chain disruption. This time it is chicken, next time it might be something else. I still remember some time back in 2021, there was an eggs shortage issue locally. We survived it, and likewise, we will ride through this chicken shortage. We just need to remain level-headed and make some small adjustments in our lives.

Personally, I felt that there wasn’t pronounced changes in my diet or life because of this ban on chicken export, which affects Singapore’s supply of fresh chicken. I didn’t feel like I had to rush and get one last bite of my Hainanese chicken rise before the clock struck 12 on 1st June 2022. How did the export ban on chicken by Malaysia affect you as a consumer, or as a business owner? Let us know in the comments!

About Author

A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That's why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.