Fri. Dec 8th, 2023

TL;DR – Better have oversupply than shortage. And mama says never put all your eggs in one basket.

I hate wasting food. I get terribly upset if I have to throw food away. I would rather overeat than have to throw food away. It’s just the way I was brought up. That’s why I was quite upset to learn that some egg supplier had to throw away 250,000 eggs.

250,000! That’s a lot of eggs!?!?

How did it happen?

So apparently local distributors had imported more eggs during the CB period. They did this because they saw customers grabbing eggs during March and April. They thought the trend would continue in May.

Only it didn’t. For whatever reasons, the CB period resulted in a sharp drop in demand for eggs. It didn’t help that the government managed to diversify egg supply and started bringing in eggs from places as far as Poland. As a result, there was an oversupply.

And the oversupply was apparently so bad that one particular distributor, Kim Hock Eggs Merchant, had to throw away 250,000 eggs.

When I read that news, I thought of two things.

First, how could the government have allowed this to happen? How could it not have predicted a possible oversupply? And if it did, why still import eggs from as far as Poland?!

The second thought that came to mind was why did the supplier not donate the eggs?

Then I did a bit more digging. And read in greater detail. Kim Hock Eggs Merchant had to throw away the eggs because they had gone bad. This was even though they stored the eggs in chillers. Which was strange. Because according to another egg distributor, Kai Yong Huat Distributor, imported eggs can generally be kept in the chilled warehouse for four to six months. So how long had Kim Hock Eggs Merchant kept those 250,000 eggs?

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Or perhaps, as the manager of Kim Hock Eggs Merchant, Mr Bernard Ong said when interviewed by Straits Times: “The eggs could have gone bad when it was shipped”. So maybe the eggs Kim Hock Eggs Merchant had to throw away had nothing to do with the current oversupply?

And to put things into perspective, Singapore consumed 2 billion eggs last year. That’s 167 million eggs a month. We haven’t heard of any other egg distributors having to throw away eggs. So, perhaps only 250,000 eggs were thrown away this month. That’s 0.15%. That’s like… you know… when you eat durians, and miss that little bit of flesh off the seed?

It is probably true that there is an oversupply of eggs at the moment. That happens from time to time in any industry. Yes, we can rely on past patterns and buffer in seasonal behaviours when we do our demand forecast. But there will always be some unforeseen circumstances. Like COVID-19.

The local egg distributors have their own projections of demand, and import however many they need. It’s a free market. They probably saw the demand in March and April and projected a certain number for May. The actual demand and consumption might have been lower since there was no Raya visiting and there was also a period when home-based baking and cooking businesses were stopped. But hey, part of business risk, no?

It’s not an exact science. There’s bound to be some error. And given the volatility arising from the madness I’d say that we should expect a far larger margin of error than 0.15%.

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Also, having an oversupply is, to me as a Singaporean consumer, far better than a shortage. It’s good to show the world that we are able to bring in eggs from all over the world. That even with some countries cutting off exports to Singapore, we are still able to have enough eggs to have an oversupply. It gives us bargaining power. If any country wants to cut our supplies, go ahead. We will find other ways. Want to jack up prices? Ok lor, we will find alternative sources.

In fact, I dug a little more. Asked around a bit – who would benefit from Singapore importing less eggs from fewer foreign countries? There’s one exciting conspiracy theory in some fractions of the market GASP! that someone lose from having more eggs in the market at lower prices.

Rumour has it this whole make-a-lot-noise-about-oversupply-of-eggs-in-Singapore thing was orchestrated by some egg distributors who have developed close relationships with egg suppliers from traditional sources. These egg suppliers are unhappy that Singapore is now less reliant on them. They are unhappy that they can no longer control the prices. They are not happy that they have to drop their prices to compete with eggs from even more countries. So they want to put pressure on the Singapore government to stop facilitating the import of eggs from other countries.

On the side, some people even seeded the thought that the eggs from Poland were tainted with Salmonella using past overseas reports. Hmm.. who are the ones spreading such rumours? Anyway, have more faith, people. Our Singapore Food Agency (SFA) will only approve food sources if they meet SFA’s standards. One criteria is that farms need to be free from Salmonella Enteritidis (SE).

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I don’t know if that conspiracy rumour is true.

Regardless, I think we should continue to import eggs from more sources. Remember: Never put all our eggs in one basket.

And never get all our eggs from one country. Thankfully, because we have been able to diversify our supplies, prices have gone down. According to Mr Ong of Kim Hock Eggs Merchants, the price of a tray of 30 eggs had dropped from $5 to $4. Hooray for consumers! At a time when earning money is difficult, I’m sure we’re all happy that things are a little more affordable.

I think the government should soldier on to diversify our supply sources as we can expect the global supply uncertainties to continue for some time. This will help us to mitigate supply disruptions and price fluctuations.

And to Singaporeans who run to NTUC to empty out the shelves because of changing DORSCON levels… remember, that despite there being disruptions in global supply chains, Singapore managed to have an oversupply of eggs.

4 egg importers who accounted for 30% of total supply had been blocked from importing eggs from Malaysia

By Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!