Keep wet markets, but upgrade them

I REFER to the Oct 13 editorial, ‘Wet markets and the forces of change’, which recapped the current controversy over the impending closure of several wet markets as a result of acquisitions by supermarket chains.

While I agree that wet markets are often ‘wet and smelly’ places to shop for fresh produce, fish and meat, the root causes of the dampness and odours have to be addressed. From what I see at the Serangoon Avenue 3 wet market, where I shop twice a week, poor design and construction, age and poor maintenance by the current operator are to blame.

This market stands in sharp contrast to the recently renovated markets in Tampines and Bedok. These are clean, neat and well ventilated. The stallholders have well-designed stalls where they can store raw or cooked food properly, display their wares and ensure that waste is properly managed.

Wet markets are far from becoming relics from a bygone age. They are relevant to 21st-century Singapore and meet the needs of residents in the estates around them. For instance, the Serangoon Avenue 3 wet market services a large residential area comprising HDB flats, private condominiums and houses in Upper Serangoon, Braddell and Serangoon Gardens estates. Customers of the wet market comprise young working adults, expatriates and the elderly.

Residents here are so used to the same stallholders and the convenience of the wet market. I would be really sad to see some of the stallholders go once the sale is finalised.

Historically, wet markets with many different stallholders provide variety and competitive prices for customers. For customers, a single operator would probably mean less variety and a real risk of monopoly prices. There is no guarantee that the economies of scale enjoyed by a monopolistic single operator will be passed onto customers.

Elaine Leong (Ms)


Comparison

‘I don’t detect much difference in smell or cleanliness between the Kilburn market I frequented in London and the Bai Sha Market here.’

MR CHENG SHOONG TAT: ‘During my two-year stay in Britain as a graduate student, I, like many Londoners, shopped for fresh produce at one of the many Saturday open-air markets. I don’t detect much difference in smell or cleanliness between the Kilburn market I frequented in London and the Bai Sha Market here. The Kilburn stallholders were friendly most of the time, but the Bai Sha ones are welcoming all the time.’


Remember

‘When traditional markets are lost, communities eventually regret that.’

MR PHILIP ROBERTS: ‘I am a regular customer at the Tiong Bahru wet market. The ‘wet’ section is certainly wet, but the market is neither stinking nor unhygienic. It is clean, airy and well-managed: a very modern market. Experiences in other countries show that when traditional markets are lost, communities eventually regret that. Wet markets will survive not because of nostalgia, but because they provide a service valued by the community.’

Source : Straits Times – 26 Oct 2009

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