Consumers and businesses in Singapore are campaigning for a chicken ban

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(Bloomberg) — Businesses and consumers in Singapore are rushing to figure out how to cope with Malaysia’s upcoming halt to some chicken exports.

Starting Wednesday, Malaysia will ban the export of 3.6 million chickens a month to stem rising food costs and ensure adequate domestic supplies. The move has left Singapore’s stores selling chicken products in limbo, with consumers worried about whether they can still enjoy favorite foods like chicken rice.

“My family loves the dish and we eat it about two or three times a week,” said William Tan, an engineer. “I’m still grateful that many of the chicken rice stands I patronize haven’t increased their prices. But it probably means they have to bear the additional costs, so I’m not sure if it’s sustainable for them.”

Singapore Navy chief chef Ho Lian Shun decided to cook chicken rice for his crew of 50 just days after the ban was announced. Ho was aboard a ship for a week-long voyage at the time of the announcement.

“The news caused a very big reaction,” he said. “Our kitchen staff kept emphasizing that every part of the chicken should be used and not a single piece of meat should be wasted.”

About 34% of Singapore’s chicken imports last year came from Malaysia, with almost all imported as live chickens and slaughtered and chilled in the city-state. The Singapore Food Agency said the restriction could cause temporary disruptions to refrigerated chicken supplies and urged consumers to be open to switching to frozen chicken or other meat products.

Chicken importers are urging customers to accept the available parts of the bird, such as breast or wings, rather than ordering a whole bird, the Straits Times reported on Monday. Importers are stepping up processing and stockpiling as much chicken as possible ahead of the ban, the newspaper reported.

Some higher quality chickens will continue to be approved for export, the Business Times reported, citing Aqina Farm spokesman Scott Ang. The ban mainly affects mass-market “broiler” chickens, which are in greater demand in Malaysia due to their accessibility, he said he.

Virtual meetings with relevant authorities in Malaysia confirmed that kampong, or free range and organic chickens, had been approved for export, Ang told BT.

Higher-end restaurants rely on their supplies of free-range chicken, BT said, noting that Coconut Club’s supplier Toh Thye San has been able to secure its supplies for the moment with no price change. Toh Thye San is known for its GG French chicken, which is certified organic and raised humanely, the BT said.

Separately, the Straits Times reported that many diners at stalls serving chicken rice – a regional specialty – are unconcerned about the ban, saying frozen chicken would be fine.

“We have to take one step at a time. There’s nothing to worry about,” said Johnny Chee, who works at Min Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice at the Amoy Street Food Center. He pointed out that while it’s possible to use frozen chicken, not all frozen chicken makes the cut.

“If we’re using frozen chickens, we need big ones that weigh at least five pounds because they need to have enough meat for boning,” Chee said. “But it can’t be too big because the meat will be very tough.”

(Adds details and comments from second paragraph)

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