SINGAPORE: Even as rice importers are encouraged to import more, the problem lies in the high costs and lack of storage space, not the supply availability — so say importers who met with International Enterprise (IE) Singapore on Tuesday.
At the one-hour meeting involving more than 30 suppliers, the latter raised concerns such as whether consumers would buy rice if prices continued to spiral upwards.
Managing director of Chye Choon Foods Jimmy Soh told TODAY: "With the prices moving so aggressively, importers may revise prices up by another 10 to 20 per cent".
This means Singaporeans could see another hike in retail prices in the next two to three weeks, but Mr Soh was not certain they would pay.
At the meeting, traders were asked if they could absorb the increased costs — but traders hoped the government could subsidise these, according to See Hoy Chan's operations manager E K Lim. He said IE Singapore told them the feedback would be passed on to the government.
With Singapore's three rice warehouses nearly 90 per cent full, Mr Lim said supply shortage is not a worry for consumers here. "Even if I bring in more rice, how am I going to store it?" he asked, pointing out the costs of renting additional storage space.
This concern was one of the issues raised at the meeting, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), which heads IE Singapore.
The MTI said, to media queries, that the meeting was held "in response to requests from importers for the government to consider allowing them to import rice over and above their usual monthly imports".
This refers to the agreement traders have with MTI to bring in a fixed amount of rice monthly.
"Issues such as the availability of existing financial schemes for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and assistance in securing warehouse space were among the issues discussed," the MTI added.
But, Mr Lim felt that upping imports now was not the best solution for consumers — with stocks taking up to four months to clear, consumers may end up paying higher prices for their rice later even if global costs drop by then, he said. - TODAY/ra