Space for wet markets

But HDB cannot ensure success, or interfere in privately-run markets

Ms Fu explained that the HDB could not intervene if privately-run markets changed hands, since these changes of ownership were a result of market forces. — PHOTO: ZAOBAO

IF PEOPLE want wet markets in their neighbourhoods, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will provide space for them.

What it cannot do, however, is guarantee that these markets will succeed. Whether they do so is up to market forces, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

In addition, the HDB cannot dictate which stalls will make up privately-run markets, which is for the operator to decide, she added, on the sidelines of an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority event yesterday.

Her comments came in the wake of interest stirred over the impending loss of wet markets, after news broke that supermarket chain Sheng Siong was buying over five of them from their private operator.

Shoppers who rely on wet markets for their groceries had urged the Government to step in to preserve these markets and called on the HDB to reject such sales.

Of the 101 markets here, 82 are managed by the National Environment Agency and the remaining 19 are privately run. Of those 19, 14 are in HDB neighbourhoods.

Ms Fu explained that the HDB could not intervene if privately-run markets changed hands, since these changes of ownership were a result of market forces.

But, she added, the HDB recognises that such markets are an important social focal point for the community. This is why it has started leasing out significant space for wet markets and hawker centres this year.

Sengkang housing estate, for example, has a first: The HDB has invited a private operator to build and run a stand-alone market and food centre there.

Called Kopitiam Square, the 43,055sqft complex, with 48 market stalls, 60 cooked food outlets and 12 retail shops is expected to open by year’s end.

So the role of the HDB, as the national public housing town planner, is to ensure that space is set aside for wet markets where they are wanted, but it will leave it to operators to decide to whom they lease out stalls, said Ms Fu.

‘We cannot dictate that your favourite vegetable sellers or your favourite prata stall sellers will always be there.

‘So we will make sure that there’s space for the kind of services that are needed – whether they are clinics, dentists or beauty salons – but we cannot make sure your favourite hairstylist will always be there, doing your hair.’

See also : Wet markets make a world of difference

See also : Wet markets need extreme makeover

POWDERED and liquid eggs will be introduced to consumers as alternatives to regular eggs from next year.

Speaking at an Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority event to promote frozen meat, Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said: ‘While we have diversified our sources of meat, we have not been able to do so for shell eggs. Our heavy dependence on Malaysia as the single source of imported shells makes us vulnerable to supply disruptions.’

Singapore has been hit by food supply crunches in the past and this is the latest in a number of moves to diversify food resources.

Currently, liquid and powdered eggs are used commercially, such as in the making of confectionery, ice cream and noodles.

Regular eggs cost about 12 to 15 cents each. Powdered eggs cost more than double that, while liquid eggs are about the same price as normal ones.

The director of liquid egg company Green-Tech Egg Industries, Mr Ng Kong Guan, said it had tried testing the retail market in 2006 for about six months through supermarket outlets, but found that the response was ‘very poor’.

‘Consumers are more used to shell eggs, and they find it hard to change. It’s a matter of mindset,’ he said.

Madam Chng Hioh Eng, 66, a clerk, buys a carton of eggs about once a week.She said she would consider trying liquid or powdered eggs if they were cheaper than regular ones.

Source : Straits Times – 26 Oct 2009


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