SINGAPORE, June 22 — Businesses along the supply chain for fresh poultry such as butchers and suppliers that are hurt by Malaysia's partial live chicken export ban are seeking government support, following the waiver of the foreign worker levy for chicken slaughterhouses.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong announced yesterday (June 21) that 11 slaughterhouses here affected by the ban, which kicked in on June 1, will receive a one-month waiver of the foreign worker levy.

This was among a raft of support measures from a S$1.5 billion (RM6.6 billion) package to help more vulnerable groups cope with rising living costs.

Poultry abattoirs welcomed this support, saying that it is “better than nothing”, but other businesses along the supply chain said that if the export ban drags on, they hope that the government will consider giving them support as well.

Butcher Chua Lian Heng, owner of Lian Heng Poultry Supply at Taman Jurong Market, told TODAY that smaller businesses such as his have been left to fend for themselves, whereas the relatively larger slaughterhouses are beneficiaries of the government aid.

“If the government wants to help us then it would be welcome, but if it doesn't do it in the end, we cannot do anything about it,” he said in Mandarin.

Chua, who is in his 60s, added that with no fresh chickens, he had been taking a break from work and has had no income this month, along with about S$4,000 in losses due to rental charges and loss in potential sales.

Although Malaysia had partially lifted the chicken export ban, allowing poultry importers in Singapore to resume bringing in live kampung and black chickens from June 14, Chua is not keen in making the switch.

“We can sell these but the profit won't be much, the (kampung or black) chickens are too expensive and there are too few people who would want to buy them.”

An owner of hawker stall Wee Chicken at Chong Boon Market & Food Centre, who wanted to be known only as Wee, said that he had no choice but to sell kampung chickens instead of the commercial broiler chickens — the larger birds that make up the bulk of the chickens Singapore usually imports from Malaysia.

With that, he has had to raise the price of his chicken rice from S$3 to S$4, because the kampung chickens are more expensive.

Even so, his stall had lost about 60 to 70 per cent in revenue this month, and he also hopes that there will be some financial help from the authorities.

“We can only wait for what the government has to say... if we have support, it is good, but we really don't know what is going to happen.” Chua Boon Leng, 52, a poultry seller at the wet market in Tekka Centre, said that he “didn't think so much” about whether the government would provide support.

“If we can get by with the little we have, whether the government gives us support or not, it will be fine,” he added. “We cannot always rely on the government for everything.”

Though business had temporarily ground to a halt, he got it up and running again by selling kampung and black chickens.

The stallholder said that a fresh kampung chicken is over S$1 more expensive per kilogram compared to a broiler chicken, while a whole black chicken costs on average S$1 more than a broiler chicken of the same size.

He could not provide any figures, but said that business had dropped substantially, and that he and his workers are “just doing what we can do to get by”.

What slaughterhouses say

The poultry slaughterhouses are glad that they have been given some much-needed support, but also noted that other firms along the supply chain are still in need of aid.

Ma Chin Chew, chief executive officer of abattoir Hup Heng Poultry Industries, said the logistics companies that he had contracted to transport the chickens from Malaysia to his factory, or from his factory to the markets, have largely stopped operations with no support provided.

“They will not be benefitting from this (government assistance) and their operations are also fully disrupted.”

For his firm, he said: “(The levy waiver) is better than if there was no support, and it will definitely help.” He added that a company with many foreign workers can save a “substantial amount” with the waiver.

Hup Heng Poultry Industries, where 50 per cent of the workforce comprises foreign workers, will benefit significantly, though Ma had not calculated the exact amount.

No workers have been laid off or put on no-pay leave. Instead, the firm had resumed operations from June 14 by processing live kampung and black chickens.

Ma said that he needed all the manpower even though output has fallen significantly.

“We run an in-line operation, so all workers must be in line and we cannot take one person off,” he explained.

“Whether we slaughter 10,000 or 100,000 chickens, the same number of people must be there.” ― TODAY