SINGAPORE: NTUC FairPrice has sufficient supply of rice, noodles and toilet paper, said the head of the supermarket chain on Saturday (Feb 8), as he urged the public to buy only what they need.
“At this point in time, we have over 9 million toilet rolls. We have about 1.2 million packs of instant noodles. We have over 4 million kilos of rice, presently. And stocks continue to come in,” said FairPrice Group CEO Seah Kian Peng.
Supermarkets in Singapore have seen a surge in demand for groceries and personal hygiene items after the Government on Friday raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange over the global coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Health confirmed seven new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in Singapore to 40. Two of the new cases involved a taxi driver and a private-hire car driver.
Globally, the virus has killed more than 700 people and infected more than 34,000.
FairPrice has increased the volume of its daily essentials being sent to its stores by three times, Mr Seah told reporters at one of the chain's distribution centres in Joo Koon. The number of delivery trips has also doubled.
FairPrice had built up its stock in preparation for Chinese New Year as per its usual practice, and decided to continue doing so, said Mr Seah.
FIVES TIMES THE USUAL DEMAND FOR RICE
On Friday, the supermarket chain saw five times the usual demand for rice, four times the usual demand for noodles and more than two-and-a-half times the usual demand for toilet paper, he said.
“This sudden surge was one that, I would say, caught us by surprise. But I want to assure everyone out there, as you have seen at one of our three warehouses here, we do have stock available. But it does take us time to replenish the stocks, of which we are trying our best,” said Mr Seah.
He urged shoppers to only "buy what you need", saying that there's no need for them to "create your own little stockpile at home".
"Because when you do that and everyone’s trying to get it on the same day and at the same time buying more things, you just add strain to the system.”
Ms Toh Hui Leng, FairPrice's chief supply chain officer said its distribution centre at 1 Joo Koon Circle can hold more than 52,000 pallets of dry goods. It is currently at about 70 per cent capacity, up from the usual 60 to 65 per cent.
Another dry distribution centre that FairPrice has in Joo Koon can hold about 28,000 pallets of goods. It also has a fresh distribution centre in Upper Thomson that can store up to 15,000 pallets of fresh food.
About 53,000kg of rice was delivered by four 40 foot-long container trucks to the distribution centre at 1 Joo Koon Circle on Saturday, said Ms Toh.
This is roughly the high end of their usual daily delivery of about two to four container trucks worth of rice.
PRICES TO BE KEPT "AS AFFORDABLE AS WE CAN"
Despite the higher demand for goods, Mr Seah stressed that prices will be kept “as stable and as affordable as we can”.
“So far there has been no need for us to make any changes,” said Mr Seah, adding that suppliers have not increased their prices.
“So far so good. We hope things don’t change. But we have had very good working relationships with all our suppliers.”
FairPrice has imposed a S$50 limit on the amount of vegetables each shopper can buy.
When asked if FairPrice would set a ceiling for the number of products per customer, Mr Seah acknowledged that there have been calls from customers to do so.
“If we really do introduce any of this, it’s really to make sure (that customers) pace (their) buying, because there are stocks. If we do introduce limits it is not because we don’t have stocks,” he said.
“By and large the buying has been quite calm. But at the same time, we also don’t want overbuying. So this S$50 (limit) is something that we have asked our staff to look out for and tell customers. I think with S$50 you can buy a lot of vegetables.”
CALLS FOR CALM
Dairy Farm Group, which runs Giant and Cold Storage supermarkets in Singapore, said it will not be placing purchase limits on products.
“Like other food retailers we have seen a spike in demand for fresh produce along with household cleaning and hygiene products,” Mr Chris Bush, CEO of Southeast Asia Food at Dairy Farm Group, said in response to queries from CNA.
“We would like to assure our customers we are working hard to swiftly restock our stores in addition to working closely with our partners for continued supply. We ask for calm as we have a stable supply with no need to purchase in bulk.”
Prime Supermarket said it has prepared ahead and has "more than sufficient supplies to restock all shelves".
Aside from rice and instant noodles, items such as bread, milk, biscuits, vegetables, eggs, fish and meat have also seen an increase in sales by 20 to 50 per cent, said a Prime Supermarket spokesperson.
"Our staff have been monitoring and restocking every shelf since the rush buy started. Our warehouse is well-stocked (with) daily necessities items and we will monitor closely on stock level. Our suppliers are well prepared and have been on standby on any delivery request," the spokesperson added.
Additional reporting by Deborah Wong.