Singapore

Local brands get $1m-a-year FairPrice boost

NTUC FairPrice scheme helped 302 SMEs last year, up 30 per cent from 230 in 2012

It is not by accident that Singapore brands like BoBo fishballs, Khong Guan biscuits or Sing Long sauces are displayed prominently at NTUC FairPrice outlets.

This is part of a scheme started in 2009 by Singapore's largest grocery chain to promote local brands.

The number of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) benefiting from this Suppliers Support and Development Programme has gone up by about 30 per cent - from 230 in 2012 to 302 last year.

Under the scheme, NTUC FairPrice invests more than $1 million a year to offer a 50 per cent discount on product and listing fees and organise knowledge and networking seminars, said Mr Victor Chai, the chain's director of fresh and frozen, purchasing and merchandising.

In addition, NTUC FairPrice pays the firms within a month, instead of two months, which is the norm.

One of the key concerns of smaller businesses is a healthy cash flow, said Mr Chai.

"The programme alleviates the firms' financial burden and they in turn, have used savings and higher profits to launch a product earlier, or invest in technology to boost productivity," he said.

The programme is open to Singapore-owned companies or foreign companies here that have local employees and local productions or distribution facilities with an annual turnover of less than $5 million.

Currently, the supermarket chain, which has more than 140 outlets across the island, carries more than 4,500 local products, which makes up about 10 per cent of its range.

"We see an increase in awareness and support for locally produced goods over the years," said Mr Chai.

Sing Long Foodstuff, which has supplied NTUC FairPrice since 1983, is one of the SMEs to see business grow since joining the scheme in 2012.

The scheme reduces the need for Sing Long to take bank loans and helps it save on interest fees.

Its managing director, Mr Ng Chin Nyan, said: "We are able to use the savings to invest in technology and manpower to tackle challenges, and to scale up the business."

His business has grown 6 per cent year on year since 2012. Sing Long hopes to expand overseas.

It exports to countries like Malaysia, Australia and Canada but hopes to also open factories in neighbouring countries.

Association of Small & Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said SMEs are capable of manufacturing house brand products, which tend to be no-frills products, and should be roped in more.

He said: "The initiative is welcome and useful. The help in cash flow is extremely good because it is material to SMEs."

FairPrice's Mr Chai is happy to do his bit to help Singapore products.

"I am proud that our locally made products are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with international brands in terms of quality and value, and I am happy to support them," he said, adding that his kitchen is stocked with goods from these SMEs, from cooking oil to coffee and eggs.

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