As worldwide turkey shortage impacts Singapore

As worldwide turkey shortage impacts Singapore

Amid the shortage, demand for turkeys has increased by 20 per cent year-on-year for one butchery.

SINGAPORE: Festive year-end dinners might be missing their centrepieces this year, as a bird flu outbreak across the US and Europe has wiped out millions of turkeys.

The shortage has raised prices for the popular Christmas dish in Singapore, but demand has not let up.

Huber’s Butchery in Dempsey, which sells turkeys to both restaurants and consumers, has seen its supply drop by half.

A container of turkeys that would have been supplied to the butchery was halted right before leaving the US due to the bird flu, the shop’s executive director Andre Huber said.

“I scrambled to try and find supply from other places,” he said.

The US is experiencing its worst animal health crisis to date, with the avian flu reportedly wiping out more than 50 million birds so far. Europe is also reeling from record outbreaks.

With supply from the UK also impacted by the bird flu, Mr Huber turned to French turkeys to cater to Christmas demand, he said.

The bird flu drove up prices of turkeys that were already double their usual price, Mr Huber said. He has committed to only a 10 per cent increase in his retail prices, absorbing some of the additional costs that include the high freight prices from urgently importing turkeys from France, he said.

Mr Ong Yekai, business development manager at food supplier OTS International, similarly said that his firm received 60 per cent of his usual turkey supply.

“It’s a bit tricky for us, we have to work very closely with retailers,” said Mr Ong, whose firm mainly sources its turkeys from the US or Europe.

The cost of turkeys has increased by 30 per cent this year, Mr Ong said.

“We can get from other sources … so long as SFA (Singapore Food Agency) approves. However, the size may not be suitable for our people over here,” he said, adding that consumers in Singapore prefer smaller turkeys.

Amid the shortage, demand for turkeys has increased by about 20 per cent year-on-year, Mr Huber said.

To adjust to the lack of supply, Mr Huber had to prioritise customers in his retail store, he said.

“I’ve decided to put most of my eggs into … retail butchery, because of course the margins are better on this part of the business. So, I do not have enough to supply to a lot of the restaurants and hotels which I usually supply to every year.”

Mr Huber said that his firm has tried to promote alternative sources of meat for customers’ Christmas tables.

“There’s of course duck as well, there is goose, and there is quail as well. So we are promoting these other meats,” he said.

He added that there has been a “good uptake” for quail, goose and beef.

Mr Huber is already looking ahead to next year.

“Typically, I put in my orders through about now to be able to secure turkeys for 2023. So now … I still have to speak to the producers, whether they would want to take my orders,” he said.

However, things are up in the air given the bird flu situation, he said.

He added that he hopes the SFA will approve more countries that Singapore can import turkeys from.

“If not, then we can only hope that the bird flu situation in the US – which is the main supplier of turkeys to Singapore – ends so that they can supply (to) Singapore again,” he said.

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