Singapore faces chicken shortage after Malaysia export ban
Malaysian chicken farmer, Syaizul Abdullah Syamil Zulkaffly, is worried about the Southeast Asian country's impending ban on chicken exports. Last week, the government said it would halt all chicken exports from June until production and costs stabilise amid soaring prices of chicken feed.
Chicken feed is typically made up of grain and soybean, which Malaysia imports. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and uncertain weather patterns have created a global shortage.
This shortage has affected the growth rate of broiler chickens at the farm, which in turn restricts the supply of the birds.
Previously, Syaizul's farm was able to harvest as many as seven times, with 45,000 birds harvested per cycle. This year, he only expects five harvest cycles.
Syaizul, who started feeling the pinch of higher operating costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the export ban will only make things worse for poultry farmers.
"If we are to absorb even more losses, take even more loans, I think I'm better off driving (ride-hailing service) Grab," he said.
To him, a ban would have damaging, continuing consequences too.
"Any country that we export to, they can just switch to another country supplier, so it's really hard for us to get them back, to buy for us later in the future. So this export ban will definitely be a temporary solution, but we have a long-term headache."
Across the Causeway links Malaysia with heavily urbanised Singapore, which imports 34 per cent of its chicken supply from its northern neighbour, almost all of it live, according to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
On the island nation, there is worry among proprietors of chicken rice stalls about the ability to pivot or keep their business running.
Daniel Tan, the owner of seven such stalls, said the ban would affect the production of the de facto national dish.
"Most chicken rice stalls, if not 100% of chicken rice stalls all use fresh (meat for) chicken rice... so, the ban would mean we are no longer able to sell. It's like McDonald's with no burgers," the 42-year-old analogised.
Tan said exporters had been working to bring extra supplies of chickens in before the ban and said they would be able to rely on "chilled chicken" for around two weeks.
When the chilled supply was exhausted, his business, OK Chicken Rice, would resort to frozen chicken sourced from places like Brazil.
Poached chicken optimally requires fresh meat, Tan added, with the frozen variety a poor substitute. His business would only sell a roasted version of the dish only, and hoped customers would continue to patronise.
"We still will operate, but I'm expecting a strong hit in sales. I'll be happy if I have half the volume. Basically, the strategy is not to make any money, it's how much we're going to lose."