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More than 3,000 chickens from Malaysia dead due to hot weather, checkpoint congestion: Poultry importers

More than 3,000 chickens from Malaysia dead due to hot weather, checkpoint congestion: Poultry importers

File photo of chickens in Malaysia. (Photo: AFP/Jimin Lai)

SINGAPORE: More than 3,000 chickens died during their journey from Malaysia to Singapore over the last few days after cargo trucks experienced delays at the land entry checkpoints, said poultry importers interviewed by CNA.

Cargo truck drivers have been experiencing longer than usual delays at both Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints since last week after Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced that COVID-19 antigen rapid testing would be progressively rolled out. Drivers would need to test negative before being allowed to enter Singapore. 

Ms Wu Xiao Ting, a spokesperson from Singapore's Poultry Merchant's Association said around 3,500 chickens died during the journey on Wednesday (Jan 27) and Thursday.

"The congestion has been bad over the last two days ... The weather is too hot and the wait is too long, so they died," she said on Friday. "The congestion has impacted our business."

View of the Woodlands Causeway between Singapore and Malaysia on Jan 22, 2021. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo)

Ms Wu said the chickens were imported using 68 cargo trucks. They were scheduled to be transported to different slaughterhouses before being sold to retailers across Singapore. 

"The ones who died (along the journey) were disposed of. They cannot be delivered to retailers," she added. 

Poultry importer Toh Thye San Farm said that on Wednesday and Thursday, around 2,000 out of the 60,000 chickens it imported from Malaysia died during the journey. 

The company's director Johnson Toh said cargo trucks carrying the chickens were delayed between 9 hours and 11 hours at the land checkpoints. 

"From what we saw, it was because of the heat. They died from overheating. We cannot sell the chickens once they die. What we did was we put them aside and reported the incident to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA)," he said. 

READ: Some Malaysia cargo drivers run into delays at Singapore checkpoints on 1st day of mandatory COVID-19 tests

"HORRENDOUS WAIT" AT CHECKPOINTS: CARGO DRIVERS 

Truck drivers from Malaysia who entered Singapore over the last week told CNA that the congestion at the checkpoints worsened after it was announced that they had to be subjected to COVID-19 antigen rapid testing. 

Last Friday, hours after the new rules were enforced, CNA reported that some drivers had experienced delays of around three hours at the land checkpoints. 

However, those who entered Singapore over the last few days said that the wait has been extended to between 10 hours and 15 hours. 

Mr K Sasikumar, who delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to wholesalers at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre from Kota Tinggi in Johor, told CNA that he spent around 12 hours in congestion at Tuas Second Link on Thursday  before clearing immigration. 

A truck from Malaysia parked at the Pasir Panjang Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. (Photo: Amir Yusof)

"I arrived on Thursday morning at 4am and only reached Pasir Panjang at 5pm in the evening," said Mr Sasikumar. 

"The wait was horrendous, the worst I've ever experienced in my 15 years working this route," said the 54-year-old. 

He added that some of the vegetables he was carrying had to be disposed of later because they needed to be stored in cool temperatures. 

"The weather was hot most of the way so (some of) the vegetables went bad." 

Mr Loo Chin Khoong, who transports vegetables from Cameron Highlands to Singapore three times a week, said he was stuck in a 15-hour jam when he tried to enter Singapore on Wednesday. 

"I arrived at Woodlands Causeway at around 3am on Wednesday morning, hoping to skip the jam. However, I only cleared at 6pm," said the employee of Sun Yee Chong trading. 

File photo of Mr Loo Chin Khoong loading vegetables unto his truck. (Photo: Amir Yusof)

"It felt like madness. Traffic was at a standstill and we could not go anywhere" said Mr Loo. 

Similarly, Mr Loo said that some of his vegetables were no longer fresh when he delivered them to the wholesalers. 

"I worry about my next trip and my schedule. If this continues, I will be on the road constantly and won't have any time to rest," Mr Loo added.

In response CNA's queries, a spokesperson from NTUC FairPrice said that there have been delays in deliveries from across the Causeway but no significant disruption to its supplies. 

The spokesperson said: "While Malaysia is an important source of food, it makes up less than a third of our total supply of vegetables. We continue to build on and grow this portfolio of diversified sources to ensure a stable source of food at affordable prices for our customers."

READ: Commentary - Frustrated with tightened COVID-19 restrictions, Johor residents hope this MCO is the last

Moreover, poultry importers Mr Toh and Ms Wu said that the situation had improved on Friday morning at both the Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link. 

Mr Toh said: "So far today no issues with the shipments, but we don't know (what will happen) over the next few days ... We'll have to monitor closely." 

Ms Wu said the Poultry Merchant's Association will continue to import live chickens at the same volume. 

"We are confident the situation at the Causeway will improve and the shipments will be back to normal," she added. 

HIGH CARGO VOLUME, "IT TECHNICAL ISSUES" TO BLAME FOR LONG WAIT: AUTHORITIES

In a joint statement, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said they are aware of reports of severe congestion experienced by cargo drivers at the Tuas Checkpoint on Wednesday and Thursday. 

"Our agencies have been in very close contact with the affected companies," the authorities said. 

"The delays were due to a combination of factors. Cargo volume has returned to pre-COVID levels and with the continued closure of Malaysia’s Bangunan Sultan Iskandar from 7pm to 7am, as well as the upcoming Lunar New Year, the overall cargo volume is now more concentrated at certain times of the day, leading to traffic bunching."

The authorities also said the COVID-19 testing service provider at Tuas checkpoint encountered "IT technical issues" on Wednesday.

"As a result, they had to fall back on manual verification of ART (antigen rapid testing) results, which added to the clearance time," the authorities said. 

The issue has since been rectified, and the authorities said they have taken additional measures to speed up the flow of traffic there. 

On the issue of live poultry shipment delays, ICA-MTI-SFA said they are closely monitoring the situation and added that "delivery times have since improved significantly with minimal delays" on Friday.

"We will continue to work closely with the checkpoint users to make the clearance process as smooth as possible. With the expected continued increase in volume in coming weeks, we seek the understanding of companies and users to expect delays and to plan their journey ahead."

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Source: CNA/am

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