Hawkers and restaurant owners are switching to rice from Myanmar instead of more expensive imports from Thailand to cope with global increases in rice prices, news reports said Wednesday. ( dpa )
"Supplies seem stable for now, but the world's demand is on Thailand's shoulders," The Straits Times quoted Saga Footstuffs managing director Goh Hock Ho as saying.
His firm is expecting about 350 tonnes of white rice from Myanmar this month after buying none in March. The grain from Myanmar is about 200 Singapore dollars (144 US dollars) cheaper per 50 kilogram bag than from Thailand.
Importers are trying to ensure supplies remain stable by sourcing from alternative venues.
Major rice importer FairPrice brings in grain from India, Vietnam and Australia.
Last year, the city-state imported 326,854 tonnes of rice - 60 per cent from Thailand, another 30 per cent from India and Vietnam and the remaining 10 per cent from 15 other countries.
Restaurants and hawker stall operators are also looking for other ways to cut costs, the report said. A check of 15 restaurants and hawker centres by The Straits Times found that seven had taken action, including cutting back on labour and electricity and dishing out smaller portions.
Others have switched to lower grades of rice.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry said that current supplies make it unnecessary to draw on Singapore's national rice stockpile, enough to see the city-state through three months in an emergency.
Some importers fear that Thailand will cut exports.
" Thailand has not said anything about stopping exports, but they are feeling the pressure because of the overwhelming demand," said rice importer Goh Hock Ho.
Not all cost-cutting measures have worked. The owner of a chicken rice store received complaints from customers after he switched last month to a lower grade of rice.
They complained that the rice tasted less fragrant, "so I switched back after three weeks," he said.