Singapore wholesalers turn to Malaysia after suspension of egg supplies from major Ukraine farms
SINGAPORE,. Due to drug residue found in their eggs, two farms from Ukraine were suspended by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) last month, and some wholesalers have had to top up supply from Malaysia.
About 1.3 billion eggs were imported to Singapore last year. Of these, about 0.6 per cent — or around 8.2 million — were from Ukraine.
In response to queries from TODAY, SFA said that the suspensions will last until it has verified that the farms have measures in place to ensure that their eggs do not contain drug residues and are safe for human consumption.
To ensure food safety, farms in approved countries have to be accredited by SFA before their eggs can be imported to Singapore.
Countries with SFA-approved farms include Australia, Japan, Malaysia (West), New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine and the United States. SFA said that egg importers should be able to switch to suppliers from other accredited sources when there are disruptions to any one source.
“As part of our surveillance and inspection programme, SFA regularly monitors and samples imported egg and egg products for testing to ensure that they meet our food safety standards and requirements. This includes ensuring that imported egg and egg products do not contain drug residues that may be potentially harmful to human health,” the agency said.
Commenting on the latest development, a few egg wholesalers told TODAY that it has not affected their business much, adding that sourcing for eggs from places other than Singapore and Malaysia is not profitable anyway.
Ang Seng from Ang Seng Eggs Supplier, who is the former chairman of the Egg Import/Export Trading Association, said that the two farms from Ukraine are from the same company which is a major source for Singapore egg suppliers.
Ng Kong Guan, director of Green-Tech Egg Industries, said that the suspension of the two farms did not affect its supply of eggs and “business is as usual”.
Green-Tech Egg Industries imports about five to six million eggs each month from Malaysia, Thailand and Ukraine, and of these, about 10 per cent are from Ukraine.
Ng told TODAY that while his company has not imported eggs from the two Ukrainian farms in the last three months, he can still buy eggs from other farms accredited by SFA to replace the shortage. He said that he has resorted to importing more eggs from places such as Malaysia to make up for the loss in supply.
“This will help us to reduce the impact,” he said.
Too late for Chinese New Year
Marcus Seah, a manager at wholesaler Ming Kee Egg Supplies, said that due to the “short-notice” suspension of the two farms, the company has also been turning to farms in Malaysia to supplement the expected dip in supply that the Ukrainian eggs were expected to fill.
Ming Kee Egg Supplies had initially ordered four containers of eggs in mid-December before the suspension was announced, but the shipment plans were postponed to January.
Seah said that when the firm received the email from SFA, the Ukraine supplier had already redirected his shipment order because “they also received an email from SFA”.
“So then I immediately called the farm in Malaysia and they agreed to support and fill up the blanks,” he added.
“We are unable to get eggs from Spain because it will take about five weeks before they arrive and by then, it would be heading to Chinese New Year (in late January). Hawkers are not working. People won’t buy if they arrive by then,” he explained.
Each shipment from Ukraine takes an estimated one-and-a-half months, Seah said, and monthly shipments of about two to three containers worth of eggs are planned months in advance. Each container carries 389,168 eggs.
Asked if he had suffered any loses from the suspension, Seah said that the Ukrainian farm has not addressed his inquiry about refunds. He had already paid the amount in full, which is the protocol for wholesalers before the farm would ship the eggs.
Higher cost of shipping
A supplier from Yanhong Private Limited, who gave his name as just Ang, said that his company has not been affected that much by the suspension, but he typically “incurs losses from importing eggs that are not from Singapore or Malaysia anyway”.
He told TODAY that these eggs are about 10 to 20 per cent more expensive than those from farms in Singapore and Malaysia.
Ang from Ang Seng Eggs Supplier said that eggs from Ukraine and other countries besides Malaysia are generally costly because they include the cost for containers and shipping.
“They are also chilled eggs — cannot store too long, only 75 days. Eggs from Malaysia are fresh eggs,” he said.
Another egg supplier here who did not want to be named said that he does not make a profit when importing eggs from Ukraine, just ”breaking even” each time. He added that eggs imported from countries such as South Korea and Thailand are generally expensive as well.
Ang of Ang Seng Eggs Supplier said that in order to get a licence to bring in imported eggs, suppliers have to follow SFA’s requirement to sell a percentage of eggs sourced from outside Malaysia and Singapore.
With regard to egg suppliers who suffer losses because of this requirement, Ang said: “(The authorities) need to ask us about what we think about getting these eggs. They just put out the requirement and we have to follow.”
In response to this, SFA told TODAY that last year, it introduced new licensing requirements for egg importers to adopt business continuity plans to mitigate any potential impact of food supply disruptions.
“This requirement is necessary to improve the resilience of our egg supply and the industry. Importing eggs from a diversified range of sources is one of the strategies that importers can adopt among others such as establishing retainer contracts with alternate sources or keeping a buffer stock.”
Importers will only be granted licences if their business continuity plans are satisfactory, and they must adhere to the approved plans, SFA said.
To give importers time to review their business plan and establish contacts with new suppliers, the agency alerted importers in March last year about the new licensing requirement, delayed its roll-out to September and shared a list of accredited sources with them, for instance.
SFA stressed that apart from the two suspended farms in Ukraine, there is still one Ukrainian farm that is accredited for export of eggs to Singapore.
In an email response to TODAY, a spokesperson from NTUC FairPrice said that its supermarkets do not carry eggs from Ukraine. To protect consumers from price fluctuations of essential goods, it diversifies its sources and imports from various suppliers and origins. Besides Singapore, eggs are sourced from countries including Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and South Korea.
“Having such policies in place enable us to better cope with potential fluctuations in supply and price,” the spokesperson said. — TODAY