Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shelf life of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in question

Leong Wee Keat : 

12 December 2008
TODAY (Singapore)
(c) 2008. MediaCorp Press Ltd.
Sourced from Factiva

FOR 25 years, it has been Singapore’s main wholesale distribution centre for vegetables, fruits and dried food products. In recent years, it also made the headlines as a chikungunya fever cluster, the crime scene of the murder of Huang Na in 2004 and a quarantine area during the Sars outbreak in 2003.

Now, the days of the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre (PPWC) may be numbered.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB), which owns and manages the centre, wants to carry out a study on the viability of the centre. Among the areas the HDB wants studied are: Business trends within the next five to 10 years for the centre, the impact of direct imports and whether there is still a need to have a centralised wholesale market.

From the analysis of the information gathered, the HDB hopes to better assess the requirements of the centre’s tenants in planning and redevelopment proposals, either for the existing or a new alternative site.

Wholesalers told Today that the relocation had been discussed recently. In March, the Pasir Panjang Market Vegetable and Fruits Dealers Association held preliminary discussions with the HDB as the lease of the centre was coming to an end. As plans were still being finalised, most of the stalls’ leases were renewed for a further three years.

“We occupy a large area which could be redeveloped for other uses,” said vegetable seller Law Song Nam, who has been at PPWC since 1983.

PPWC, sitting next to the Pasir Panjang Port Terminal and occupying an area equivalent to 20 football fields, is home to about 1,400 units of stalls, shops, cold rooms and offices.

According to HDB’s tender document, the centre “faces the threat of being bypassed as a wholesale centre as there is an increasing trend for businesses to import directly from overseas suppliers”.

“This challenge, together with the ageing building conditions and other dynamic business changes, poses uncertainty to the future for PPWC,” it added.

Despite these challenges, wholesalers feel that they still have a role to play at PPWC. Thygrace Marketing’s owner Philip Seow — who has been in the wholesale trade for 23 years — said that besides market stalls, PPWC wholesalers also supply fruits and vegetables to food manufacturing companies, hotels and restaurants.

“Having more players at a common market means greater variety and more competitive pricing for customers,” he added.

Also, wholesalers pointed out that only large retailers — such as supermarket chains — could reap economies of scale by directly importing produce.

“Small retailers cannot buy 50 boxes at one go for perishables,” said Zenxin Agri-Organic Food’s Mr Tai Seng Yee.

PPWC also caters to retail shoppers. At the centre yesterday, Today spotted a few shoppers looking for bargains.


Is Pasir Panjang hub still viable?
Ang Yiying
458 words
12 December 2008
Straits Times
(c) 2008 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

HDB commissions market survey to decide fate of struggling wholesale centre

THE fate of the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre hangs in the balance. With more businesses importing directly from overseas suppliers, the 15ha site faces the threat of being bypassed as a wholesale centre, according to an HDB tender document on the government business website.

The HDB has called for a major study on the wholesale centre's future viability. It is owned and managed by HDB through an agent and has 1,405 units comprising stalls, shops, cold rooms and offices. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), some 30 per cent of fruit importers and 60 per cent of vegetable importers have their warehouses, cold stores and distribution sites there.

At the wholesale centre yesterday, sellers told the same story: Their sales have been on the decline since the Sars outbreak in 2003 when the market was shut for two weeks after some sellers fell sick.

Some walk-in customers stayed away and never returned, while some businesses found alternative sources by liaising directly with suppliers, said sellers. Most who spoke to The Straits Times said sales had dropped by half since then.

Madam Tan Ai Keow, 55, who has been selling vegetables at the market since it opened in 1983, said: 'Times are bad. The market has no business.'

Sellers said one major issue is that businesses are being directly supplied from Malaysia. Trucks carrying goods go through Customs and deliver directly to businesses.

The AVA, which uses the wholesale centre as an inspection point to take samples to check for pesticide residues and contaminants, said not all goods are required to report to the centre, only randomly targeted vegetables and fruits for the day.

Mr Raymond Tan, owner of MCP Supermarket which has six outlets in Singapore, used to buy all of his produce from the wholesale centre when he established the chain in 1999.

Now, he buys only 30 per cent there. He imports 70 per cent directly from Malaysia.

According to the tender document, the appointed consultant would be given three months to study the overall wholesale industries in vegetables, fruits and dried goods, and in relation to the operations of the Pasir Panjang centre.

It will give recommendations on whether and how the wholesale centre can 'continue to remain relevant and viable in future'.

However, many sellers said if the wholesale centre closes or relocates, they will wind up their businesses. One vegetable seller, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chia, 60, said: 'We're old; we won't carry on if it's gone...It's very hard to sustain the business.'

No comments: