NTUC FairPrice announced on Sunday that shoppers at all its outlets will only be allowed to buy four packs of paper products, two bags of rice and four bundle packs of instant noodles per customer from today (9 Feb).
In a notice put up in stores across Singapore on Sunday morning, FairPrice said the purchase limits were put in place “to ensure more customers have access to high-demand items”.
The S$50 limit for vegetables also remained in place.
The move came after supermarkets saw a surge in demand for groceries and personal hygiene items, after the Government raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health confirmed three new cases of the novel coronavirus that do not have apparent links with previously confirmed cases and recent travel history to China, taking the total number of cases in Singapore to 43.
The additional purchase limits are part of efforts to discourage customers from stockpiling, said a FairPrice spokesperson in response to Channel News Asia (CNA)’s queries.
“The limits are set just slightly higher than what an average grocery shopper normally buys to give customers greater purchase flexibility. Bulk purchase of vegetables is disallowed to discourage resellers,” said the spokesperson, urging shoppers to buy only what they need.
In the notice, FairPrice also reassured customers that a supply of daily essentials remains available despite the sudden surge in demand and noted that deliveries to stores have been increased.
FairPrice Group CEO Seah Kian Peng had said on Saturday that there were more than 9 million toilet rolls, about 1.2 million packs of instant noodles and more than 4 million kg of rice in its distribution centres.
Also according to NTUC FairPrice’s media advisory yesterday, it shared that it has increased the volume of its daily essentials being sent to its stores by three times and doubled the number of delivery trips.
“This sudden surge was one that, I would say, caught us by surprise. But I want to assure everyone out there, as you have seen at one of our three warehouses here, we do have stock available. But it does take us time to replenish the stocks, of which we are trying our best,” said Mr Seah.
He urged consumers to only buy what they need and that there is no need for them to create their own stockpile at home.
“Because when you do that and everyone’s trying to get it on the same day and at the same time buying more things, you just add strain to the system.”
CNA along with other media were invited to NTUC Fairprice’s warehouse to film that there are indeed rice stock and other essential items.
In the videos, you can see pallets of rice stored. The pallets of rice showed boxes of FairPrice Ponni Rice.
However, a check on NTUC FairPrice on Sunday and as time of print, shows the rice products being out of stock. The same goes for the home brand Ponni Rice that was shown in huge quantity.
On Friday, Minister of Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing wrote on his Facebook page, calling for the public to remain calm and collected as supermarkets are being cleared of its stocks
In a few comments posted on Mr Chan’s post, netizens noted that the government’s previous assurance that there are sufficient masks over the past few days runs contrary to the fact that people find it hard to buy any masks from the retail stores. With that experience, people are worried the same thing will happen with the essential items.
One commenter noted that her grandma quoted the advice of late Lee Kuan Yew that citizens should keep stock for 3 months while the government will keep stock for 6 months.
A brief search on the net and the newspaper archive did not land us with any result of that statement from late Mr Lee but nevertheless, it may explain why some old folks rushed to the store when DORSCON was announced to be orange.