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With fewer customers at wet markets, stallholders expect little disruption from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre closure

With fewer customers at wet markets, stallholders expect little disruption from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre closure

Some stall operators are facing supply disruptions from the temporary closure of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: The temporary closure of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre has affected the supply of fruits and vegetables at wet markets, but stallholders said on Tuesday (Sep 28) that they have also seen fewer customers and expect their current stock to be able to tide them over the next few days.

The Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre was closed for three days from Monday afternoon for deep cleaning and disinfection after COVID-19 cases were detected among people who worked at and visited the premises.

As of Monday, there were 82 COVID-19 cases linked to the wholesale centre.

About 30 per cent and 50 per cent of Singapore’s fruit and vegetable imports are handled at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) on Sunday.

It also said that the temporary closure of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre would cause “some” disruption to Singapore’s fruit and vegetable supply, but that this would be only "for a very short period".

LOW FOOTFALL AT WET MARKETS

When CNA visited Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre at 7am, the wet market was largely empty, with only three vegetable stalls open.

This is because the other stalls did not manage to receive their stock from the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre before it closed, said Madam Chin, 60, who runs one of the vegetable stalls.

The wholesale centre was closed for deep cleaning and disinfection at 3pm on Monday and will reopen at 3pm on Sep 30, said SFA in its announcement on Sunday. 

Mdm Chin told CNA that she immediately went to collect vegetables from the wholesale centre after hearing the news on Sunday. 

“We’re selling what we have,” she said in Mandarin. “We will sell (our vegetables) until there’s no more. Once it’s sold out, we’ll rest.”

As her stall was one of the few that was open at the market, business was not affected too badly, she said.

Rows of shuttered stalls at Chinatown Complex on Sep 28, 2021. (Photo: Calvin Oh)
A stall owner walking past stacks of boxes at Chinatown Complex on Sep 28, 2021. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

It was a similar situation over at the fruits section, with only a few stalls open. Mr Lim Min Chye, 62, who sources his fruits from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre said that there was minimal impact on his business.

He also bought extra inventory on Monday morning before the centre closed. His current stock should be able to tide him over until Thursday, he said in Mandarin.

“There’s not much footfall, so I’m not worried (that I can’t sell my fruits) … I don’t know if we will be able to sell everything. We’re happy if we don’t lose money.”

He added that the number of customers at the wet market had fallen in recent years.

The wet market at Tekka Centre was busier when CNA visited at about 8.30am. Most vegetable and fruit stalls were open, with a constant stream of customers.

Vegetable stall owner Koh Phee Hock, 73, said about half of his supply, including broccoli, radishes and carrots, was affected by the closure of the wholesale centre.

However, he also has vegetables from other sources, including Malaysia.

“(The wholesale centre) quickly sent over some stock yesterday, but nothing today,” he said in Mandarin. “We still have stock for tomorrow, but I don’t know about the day after.”

“If we don’t have any more vegetables, we’ll just rest.”

He added that COVID-19 has resulted in fewer people visiting the wet market, as more avoid going out.

Mr Ong, 65, who runs a fruit stall at Tekka Centre, said the closure was “very troublesome”.

“They don’t allow us to go into other suppliers’ markets. If you’re from Pasir Panjang you can only go to Pasir Panjang … I tried calling other suppliers and they did not allow us to enter. They said if you’re from Pasir Panjang, you can’t come here,” he said.

People shopping for fresh produce at Tekka Market on Sep 28, 2021. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

NO NEED TO STOCK UP AT HOME

When CNA approached customers at both wet markets, none of them were worried about the potential shortfall.

“There’s no need to stock up; Singapore has plenty of supply,” said retiree Alan Yong, 70, who was shopping at Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre. “If I don’t eat vegetables for a week, it’s okay. I can eat potato, sweet potato.”

He added that he could buy vegetables from supermarkets including NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong.

Civil servant Hidah Mohd Ali, 45, who was buying vegetables at Tekka Centre, said that she did not experience difficulties looking for fruits and vegetables. She visits the wet market every four days.

On whether she felt like she needed to stock up on vegetables at home, she said: “Not necessary. Supply is there. If you stock up, vegetables don’t last long.”

She added that vegetables are “easy to find” at supermarkets.

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Source: CNA/cc

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