Singapore

Singapore to review stockpiling policies: Chan Chun Sing

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Minister says city must prepare for global crises, not just regional contingencies

Singapore is reviewing its policies on stockpiling essential items to prepare for global and prolonged crises in light of the coronavirus outbreak, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

The country will also continue to diversify its sources to ensure a steady supply of essential goods and products, he told reporters on Saturday after visiting supermarket chain FairPrice's Benoi Distribution Centre in Joo Koon.

"In the past, maybe our stock has to cater more to localised contingencies or regional contingencies. But in this particular case (Covid-19), we have to review some of our assumptions to look at the global contingency, where many of our conventional supply lines might be disrupted," he said.

On diversifying Singapore's supply chains, he said this entails looking at "where the goods come from, where the manpower comes from, which market supplies to us and even which shipping line to bring goods into Singapore".

For certain essential items, Singapore "will carefully build up some local capacities that we can surge in times of need", he added.

Mr Chan's comments come a month after Singapore saw a bout of panic-buying at supermarkets when the Government moved its disease outbreak response level to orange, and at a time when citizens of some countries are emptying supermarket shelves there as the Covid-19 outbreak continues to spread worldwide.

The minister cited how Singapore has diversified its rice supply, which mostly came from Thailand and Vietnam in the past. Today, the country also gets its rice from Japan and India, he noted.

SHIFTING

Mr Chan noted that supply chains across the world are shifting, with some countries halting exports for some products.

Singapore thus has to always think two steps ahead, he said. This includes having backup suppliers capable of opening up new supply lines "when things don't work out".

One area in which Singapore can improve on is in replenishing supplies in supermarkets when demand surges, he said.

Referring to the panic-buying episode a few weeks ago, Mr Chan said: "When we saw some of the shortages over the weekend, it was not because we do not have supplies in the country.

"Some of it was just that we took a bit more time to deliver it from here (distribution centre) down to the stores. So that is something that we will seek to do better moving forward."

To help contain the coronavirus, Mr Chan said Singaporeans can exercise personal responsibility, including by buying just whatever they need.

He also encouraged every family to have a small emergency pack that contains items such as thermometers, hand sanitisers, masks, first-aid equipment and some food supplies.

While Singapore has managed to keep the number of Covid-19 cases down, the spike in cases means "we must be mentally prepared that sometime down the road, we might also see a spike in our cases, significantly different from the numbers that we are seeing today".

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