FairPrice imposes purchase limits for products amid coronavirus outbreak

SINGAPORE (CAN) – Shoppers at all NTUC FairPrice 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 starting yesterday.

In a notice put up in stores across Singapore yesterday morning, FairPrice said the purchase limits were put in place “to ensure more customers have access to high-demand items”.

The SGD50 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.

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Health confirmed seven new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in Singapore to 40.

Two of the new cases were a taxi driver and a private-hire car driver.

The virus has killed more than 800 people and infected more than 37,000 globally.

The additional purchase limits are part of efforts to discourage customers from stockpiling, said a FairPrice spokesperson in response to CNA’s queries.

A notice announcing the purchase limits on rice, instant noodles, paper products and vegetables was put up in all outlets yesterday morning in Singapore. PHOTO: CNA

“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.

Supermarket chains Sheng Siong, Prime Supermarket and Dairy Farm Group, which runs the Giant and Cold Storage supermarkets, said they have not implemented purchase limits as there is sufficient stock to meet customers’ needs.

“We will not limit customers’ purchase and we trust the public to be rational and not stockpile as food items will expire,” said a Sheng Siong spokesperson.

FairPrice has increased the volume of its daily essentials being sent to its stores by three times, he had said. The number of delivery trips has also doubled.

“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 Seah.

He urged shoppers to only “buy what you need”, saying that there’s no need for them to “create your own little 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.”

On Sunday evening, Seah reiterated in a Facebook post that the purchase limits were imposed “NOT because we do not have enough stocks”.

The limits were instead put in place to “allow our supply chain to CATCH UP on its deliveries to all our stores” and “ensure no one can buy up huge quantities and hoard and deprive others as a result”, he said.Even as FairPrice “doubled” its delivery runs over the last two days, it was still not enough as the volume of products handled was “more than the peak days of CNY”, he added.

“My supply chain and whole team are working non-stop to try to catch up on deliveries to all our stores,” said Seah, adding that they “are making good progress”.

“Let us stay calm and work through this period together as a community. It is beginning to look more like a normal Sunday.”