‘Regrettable’ that countries raised food export controls: PM Lee Hsien Loong

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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a chicken farm in Johor, Malaysia. (PHOTOS: Reuters)
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a chicken farm in Johor, Malaysia. (PHOTOS: Reuters)

It is “regrettable” that countries have started increasing food export controls as these have an adverse impact on a consumer country like Singapore, said Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (27 May), according to a report by CNA.

But the situation is “not so surprising” given the disruption in the global food supply chains due to the Ukraine war and high inflation, added Lee, who did not name any countries that are imposing the controls.

“So governments are under pressure and sometimes they take unconventional measures. For example, interdicting exports of products, and several governments have done this,” Lee told reporters at the end of a four-day working visit to Tokyo, in response to a question on the food export bans.

His comments come amid concerns in Singapore about the availability and surging prices of basic food items such as chickens. On Monday, Malaysia announced that it will stop the export of 3.6 million chickens a month from 1 June in a bid to stabilise production and domestic prices.

The Consumers Association of Singapore and the Singapore Food Agency have advised consumers to consider alternative sources of chicken and meat products and frozen options for now and to only buy what they need.

Singapore has been boosting its food resiliency through buffer stocks and source diversification, Lee said.

When any single source is interrupted, Singapore is not “unduly affected”, Lee said. “And if you can't buy chicken from one place, you can buy chickens from other countries. This time it is chicken, next time it may be something else. We have to be prepared for this.”

While a country can seek redress at the World Trade Organisation over rules violation, the process is long, Lee said. Hence, securing food supply is a more immediate concern, he added.

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