I didn’t know what start the frenzy, however, checks at major supermarkets have reveal that all their rice are gone! Singapoerans (and PRs alike) have started on a buying spree on all rice available in the market. This was especially so with all the recent attention given to the rice – be it news that it’s sufficient or otherwise.

Have you bought your rice yet?

Update: If not, it’s not too late yet because we apparently have sufficient rice (you just have to look at the right places, like within the washing powder shelf). Otherwise, it’s not a bad idea to be be surviving on fusilli, spaghetti, penne and marcoroni for a change. =)

THERE is no shortage of rice. There is no need to worry. And there is no need to rush out and buy more than you need.

For the second time in under a week, Mr S. Iswaran assured Singaporeans yesterday that stocks are ample and likely to remain so as imports are arriving as usual.

The Government will not set a price cap on rice, he said, because that would only hamper importers from going out to secure supplies at a time of rising prices worldwide.

But consumers can expect prices to rise in the short term.

‘It’s a global phenomenon and as a small importing country, we have to accept there’s going to be higher prices,’ he said.

‘And we’re not going to control the price because that would harm our importers and affect our supply of rice.’

The Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry spoke to reporters at a Pasir Panjang warehouse which stores part of Singapore’s three-month rice stockpile.

He said there was no need to draw on the reserves and if the situation reached that point, the Government would announce it.

More than once, he urged people to stay calm and his advice was simply this: ‘Buy what you need.’

He said that Singapore gets a lot of its rice from Thailand, the world’s largest exporter.

As a proportion of Thai exports, Singapore requires a relatively small amount. It also tends to buy the higher grades of Thai rice, which have not been subject to export curbs.

‘As long as we are able to pay the market price, we will be able to get supply,’ he said.

A 5kg bag of Thai fragrant rice has gone up by 60 cents from $4.70 to $5.30 in the shops.

Mr Iswaran said Singapore traders also buy from a wide range of countries worldwide.

Checks at supermarkets yesterday showed that many people were not yet heeding the advice to stay calm and were buying more than usual.

At NTUC FairPrice’s Toa Payoh Hub outlet yesterday afternoon, the rice shelves went bare in mid-afternoon, but were restocked soon afterwards.

Said mother of three Lye Geok Yong, 45: ‘I bought one extra 5kg bag because I want to stock up and save a little money. People were buying, so I also bought.’

MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Lee Bee Wah said it was nothing more than ‘herd mentality’ at work.

Opting out of the mad dash was Ms Sherrie Chan, 37, a mother of two whose family takes three months to go through a 10kg bag.

She said: ‘What’s the point of buying so many bags of rice? It will just be eaten by weevils.’

Mr Iswaran said what the Government is concerned about, is the effect of rising prices on low-income families.

They should get some relief from growth dividend and GST offset payments coming their way this year.

But his ministry will also work with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to help those in difficulty.

Also urging people not to buy more than they need was Consumers Association of Singapore chief Seah Seng Choon.

‘Consumers should wait for the storm to clear and buy only what is needed in view of the current unusual high prices,’ he said.

limjess@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 4th April 2008 – today’s the start of Qing Ming in the lunar calendar – a day for families to tend to the graves of their departed



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