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  Straits Times 5 Nov 07
Grocery bills increase as prices for foodstuffs go up
ST check finds that basic items in random basket of goods now all cost more
By Marcel Lee Pereira & Lin Xinyi

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
100 bakeries to raise bread prices by up to 20%

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
Sales steady but baker 'struggling to survive'
Jessica Jaganathan

Straits Times 29 Oct 07
Noodle prices to go up in wake of rising flour costs
By Ho Ai Li

Straits Times 21 Oct 07
Flour in short supply, so bread prices may be hit
Nur Dianah Suhaimi

Straits Times 21 Oct 07
Prices of live chicken rise by 20%
Higher feed costs in Malaysia see fresh chicken prices up by 30 to 90 cents a kilo here
By Jamie Ee Wen Wei

THE soaring cost of chicken feed in Malaysia has sent the price of live birds here up by almost 20 per cent this month, to about $5 a kilo.

Hawkers say they have no choice but to raise their own prices to offset some of the hefty increases.

Mr Chew Kian Huat, secretary of the Poultry Merchants' Association, said corn, the main ingredient in chicken feed, has shot up from about $420 to $820 a tonne - making live chickens 20 to 25 per cent pricier.

Hawkers said chicken prices are at an all-time high.

'Chicken has never been this expensive,' said Mr Tay Thiam Huat, 48, who has been selling chicken at a wet market in Eunos for 30 years. He used to sell a medium-size one for about $5. Now it costs $6.

The Sunday Times visited 10 wet markets in neighbourhoods like Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh last week. It found that the price of fresh chicken had gone up by between 30 and 90 cents a kilo.

Those who passed on all increase in costs to customers suffered a dip in sales. One hawker at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 said sales fell by 30 per cent after he raised prices by 90 cents to $5 a kilo.

Mr Ng Say Cheng, 57, who runs a stall at Toa Payoh Lorong 4, said: 'Business is already not so good. We just have to earn a little less.' He charges 50 cents more for a kilo of chicken.

Two weeks ago, Sheng Siong Supermarket raised chicken prices by about a dollar. A small chicken weighing 1 to 1.3kg now costs $4.80.

Giant hypermart has also increased prices, while NTUC FairPrice is 'holding' them for now.

The Sunday Times knows of at least one chicken rice stall that has raised prices this month. Ming Kee Chicken Rice at Bishan Street 13 now charges $3 for a plate, a rise of 50 cents.

Singapore imports about 3.4 million chickens from Malaysia a month.

While Mr Chew stressed that chicken prices have been kept 'too low' over the past few years due to intense competition, some consumers clearly think otherwise.

Housewife Tan Poh Yok, 67, said: 'It's very expensive compared to the last few years. I'll just have to eat less of it.'

Straits Times 21 Oct 07
Flour in short supply, so bread prices may be hit
Nur Dianah Suhaimi

THE price of a loaf of bread is likely to increase by about 20 cents soon due to a worldwide shortage of flour.

Drought and bad weather in wheat-exporting countries such as Australia and Canada have resulted in low harvest and caused flour prices to shoot up by about 30 per cent.

A 25kg bag of flour, which used to cost $19 a month ago, is now $25, said flour distributors here.

According to them, this is the biggest price jump in the history of flour sales.

Just last month, flour prices were increased by about $1.50 for every 25kg bag.

In fact, some flour distributors here are expecting the price of flour to go up further.

One of them, Seng Hong, said: 'The problem of short supply of harvest is not going to end any time soon, yet demand has remained high.'

Bakeries are expected to increase the price of their loaves now that the cost price of their main ingredient has gone up by so much.

Sweetlands Confectionary in Kim Keat Lane will charge up to 20 cents more for its products.

The price of a 900g loaf of bread at the shop is going up to $2.40 from $2.20 previously. Smaller-size breads, such as mini baguettes, will cost eight cents more.

Its owner, Mr Ng Yek Heng, 51, said: 'Bread that needs more flour to bake will cost more.'

Major bakeries such as Gardenia and Sunshine were not contactable at press time.

However, a Straits Times reader wrote in to the Online Forum last month saying that Gardenia has increased the price of its jumbo loaf since July by 10 cents to $2.

The letter writer had expressed shock at the price hike.

Straits Times 29 Oct 07
Noodle prices to go up in wake of rising flour costs
By Ho Ai Li

YOU may soon have to pay more for a bowl of noodles.

Following a jump in flour prices recently, the wholesale prices of noodles are shooting up too.

Yesterday, the Singapore Noodles Manufacturers Association announced it has recommended a price increase of 20 per cent to 30 per cent to its 30 members.

This means raising prices by 20 cents to 30 cents per kg, depending on the type of noodle.

Members can increase prices immediately or by Thursday, the association's chief, Mr Phua Koon Heng, told Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao yesterday.

They are free to decide how much to raise prices by.

The rise in the price of noodles follows a 20 cent increase in the price of a loaf of bread announced a week ago.

Both are linked to the spike in flour prices caused by a worldwide shortage in the supply of wheat.

In a statement, the association said its members have to raise prices 'as a last resort to cope with the dramatic rise in their cost burden'.

It spelt out price increases for raw materials such as bread flour, which has gone from $20.50 per 25kg in July to $28 this month.

The price of ordinary flour has also increased 50 per cent, from $15 to $22.50 per 25kg. The price of edible oil has also gone up from $1 to $1.40 per kg over the same period.

On average, the cost of raw materials has gone up by a third.

The association said members also had to deal with rising diesel prices, wages, rental and other assorted charges.

The hike, to 'offset the increase in business costs', may not be enough to cover all such costs, the association said.

Hawkers interviewed yesterday said they were not increasing prices for now.

Ms Xiu Ping, 38, a helper at a noodle stall, said the price of vermicelli went up from $7.50 for a 3kg packet to $9 two weeks ago. But she said there were no plans to raise the prices of dishes at the stall.

Mr Jimmy Ng, 33, said his noodle supplier had not increased prices to his chicken rice and noodle stall. He now pays $1.70 to $2 for 1kg of noodles.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said the rise in wholesale noodle prices was 'marginal'.

'We expect hawkers to refrain from taking advantage of this increase in cost to up the price,' he said.

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
100 bakeries to raise bread prices by up to 20%
Bakers' group says it can't keep absorbing flour price hikes; other ingredients also costlier
By Marcel Lee Pereira & Jessica Jaganathan

OVER 100 bakeries have indicated that they will be raising bread prices by up to 20 per cent, following a jump in flour prices.

The bakeries, many of them small family-run shops, are members of the Singapore Bakery and Confectionery Trade Association. It represents about a quarter of the estimated 400 bakeries here.

Bakers that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said they were reeling from not only the cost of flour, but price increases for other bakery ingredients such oil, sugar and dairy products like butter.

On average, the bakery association's chairman Liow Kian Huat said, the cost of ingredients has risen by 50 per cent, and many bakers cannot continue to absorb the increases. The hike of up to 20 per cent is 'reasonable', he argued.

A worldwide shortage of wheat - caused by severe droughts and crop delays in Australia, the United States and Canada - has seen prices rising nearly 74 per cent since January.

It has hit more than US$8 ($11.65) a bushel in US markets, up from about US$6.50 per bushel in May.

The knock-on effects have been felt widely. For instance, the price of bread flour here has gone from $20.50 per 25kg in July to $28 this month.

The Singapore Noodles Manufacturers Association has also given notice that its members will be raising their prices by 20 to 30 cents per kg.

Reaction was mixed among hawkers and retailers polled yesterday.

Bread sold at supermarket chains NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage, for instance, now costs more after suppliers raised prices between July and late last month.

Bakery chain Angie the Choice will increase its prices by 10 per cent from Nov 15.

Said its finance manager Nancy Goh: 'Raw materials have been increasing in price for the past two years and our company has been absorbing the costs, but this is no longer feasible.'

Some hawkers also said they would set a one-time price hike of 50 cents to try to offset some of their costs.

But most - despite complaining about the hikes - said they would take a wait-and-see approach. So bread prices will remain steady for now at some larger chains such as Four Leaves, BreadTalk, and Polar Puffs and Cakes.

But the problem is that there is no relief in sight from the surging prices, said retailers and hawkers yesterday.

Summing up the sentiment, Mr Ronnie Chua, 53, who owns a seafood soup stall at the Bishan bus interchange, said he is considering a 50-cent increase.

But he is worried: 'The question is whether the public is ready to accept the price increase. If they are not ready, our business is going to be severely affected.'

Restaurants, meanwhile, will keep prices steady for now, said Restaurant Association of Singapore president Ang Kiam Meng. He said: 'We can absorb higher costs at first, but when things get too expensive, sooner or later we will have to adjust.'

A FairPrice spokesman said it expects its suppliers to increase prices of flour and instant noodles soon, but said it would do its best to hold prices for as long as it could.

Straits Times 30 Oct 07
Sales steady but baker 'struggling to survive'
Jessica Jaganathan

HIGHER costs have already forced him to give up two outlets and now, Mr Amir Poh says he is considering raising prices to keep his business afloat.

The owner of Blossoms Cake House said he has been struggling with the 'alarming' price increases for ingredients.

'It is not just the flour prices now, but these increases have been happening one after another for the past six months,' said Mr Poh, 48.

Prices for sugar, walnuts and dairy products have also skyrocketed, he said.

Since 1993, Mr Poh has baked and sold muffins, durian puffs, doughnuts, birthday cakes and savoury buns every morning at his Old Airport Road bakery. They are either sold there or taken to his retail outlet at the SingPost building.

Customer numbers have not declined but profits are starting to slide by as much as 40 per cent in the past six months alone.

He sold his two other outlets in August last year because of spiralling rent and fuel prices.

'I can't keep absorbing the costs,' he told The Straits Times. 'Business has been hit quite badly and we are struggling to survive.'

He is considering raising prices next month, but says he is in a panic over whether customers will shun his store altogether.

If he decides to up the price, he will cap it at 20 per cent across all his items.

Said Mr Poh: 'I have to think about this carefully though. Customers are not going to understand if we just increase prices suddenly. First, the GST increase and now this. I don't know what to do.'

Straits Times 5 Nov 07
Grocery bills increase as prices for foodstuffs go up
ST check finds that basic items in random basket of goods now all cost more
By Marcel Lee Pereira & Lin Xinyi

A TRIP to the supermarket will cost more now than it did at the beginning of the year.

A Straits Times check on a random basket of basic goods sold at supermarkets here revealed price increases in almost every category, from fresh chicken to coffee and milk formula.

For instance, a popular brand of luncheon meat cost $1.70 in January, but now costs $2.50. Then, fresh whole chicken sold for about $4.50; the price is now closer to $5.20.

This, on the back of news last week that noodle and bread prices were on the rise.

But Singapore is not alone: Prices of bread, pasta, potatoes and meat are going up, putting pressure on family budgets around the world.

Russia imposed Soviet-style price controls on a range of foodstuffs last month. China has released stockpiles of pork, while Bangladesh, Jordan and Egypt are raising subsidies or slashing import tariffs.

Suppliers The Straits Times spoke to said droughts in Australia, crop failures in the US, reduced milk production and higher cost of tinned food cans are all contributing factors.

Globally, prices of wheat and milk are at historic peaks. Corn and soyabean prices have also risen steeply, and international wheat prices have risen nearly 74 per cent since January.

With higher grain costs, feed will become more expensive, and suppliers say this will mean a rise in meat and milk prices.

Rising food prices have contributed to inflation here. September's overall Consumer Price Index showed that prices generally retreated by 0.3 per cent from the previous month, but the food component - the biggest item at 23 per cent - rose 3.7 per cent as the cost of fresh vegetables, fruit, seafood and milk powder, as well as hawker and restaurant food, went up.

Consumers The Straits Times spoke to said that while increases for each item may seem like a token sum, together, they add up to a much bigger grocery bill.

Housewife Cynthia Leow, 30, told The Straits Times she noticed she was paying about $10 more during her weekly supermarket trips.

Similarly, Ms Huang Ya Li, 60, said she needed to set aside an additional $20 a month for groceries, compared with the start of the year.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, president of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said that price increases were inevitable, with the climate playing a major role in food shortages. But he said things were not as bad as they seemed.

Consumers, he said, had the option of buying house brands from supermarkets, and these were generally cheaper. Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice said its house brand products are, on average, priced 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower than comparable national brands.

Checks revealed that bread and butter prices for FairPrice's house brands have remained steady over the past 11 months, but there have been 15 cent to 25 cent increases for coffee and cooking oil.

Besides food, prices of tyres and batteries are also going up. The past 11 months have also seen increases in the goods and services tax, public transport fares, fuel prices and rents.

And now, more hawkers are giving notice that they may not hold out on price increases much longer as they are also feeling the pinch.

The owner of a handmade noodles stall at the Gourmet Paradise foodcourt in the Toa Payoh HDB Hub said she is hoping to charge 20 cents to 30 cents more for every bowl of noodles from next year to cover costs.

She said that rental on her stall, which is now $4,500 a month, is set to rise to $5,500 at the start of next year, and then to $6,500 in 2009.

In the meantime, Ms Huang said she was doing her best to be cautious with her spending: 'If a meal at a coffee shop is $3 or more, I will look for something cheaper. I eat to fill my stomach, so it does not matter whether the food is nice or whether I am given more ingredients.'

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