Singapore’s Beloved Chicken Rice Is About to Get More Expensive

A PLATE of chicken rice, one of Singapore’s most popular meals, is poised to get more expensive after Malaysia moved to restrict exports.

The ubiquitous dish is found at almost every dining spot in Singapore, from hawker centers to high-end restaurants, and consists of poached chicken, rice and a garlic chili dip. Malaysia’s move to halt chicken exports from June will hurt diners in the city-state, which gets a third of its poultry from its neighbor.

The export ban will likely further push up the price of chicken, Singapore’s most widely-consumed meat, which rose 5.7% in April, said Lee Ju Ye, an economist at Maybank Investment Banking Group. Food inflation will remain elevated at between 4% and 6%, versus an average increase of 1.5% over the past five years, she said.

While food comprises 21% of Singapore’s consumer price basket, with meat accounting for just 0.1%, the impact of Malaysia’s move is significant, said Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research & Strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.

“If it’s persistent and, more worryingly, reflective of more protectionist measures by other countries over food security and inflation concerns, then this could be a lose-lose scenario for everyone,” Ling said.

Almost all chickens from Malaysia are imported as live animals, which are then slaughtered and chilled, according to the Singapore Food Agency. There may be temporary disruptions to chilled chicken supply, but frozen chicken remains available. It advised consumers to be open to switching and to buy only what they need.

“It’s more a case of customers having to accept their chicken-rice chicken may be chilled or frozen instead of live chickens,” said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking in Singapore. “It’s the smell and taste perception.”

Philip Sng, the owner of a chicken rice hawker stall in the inner-city suburb of Newton, said higher poultry costs will likely translate to more expensive prices for consumers.

“We have to of course increase prices for our customers,” he said. “We have no choice.” – Bloomberg