December 9, 2023

Food Bazaar

Get In My Food Bazaar

Bazaar and pasar malam vendors glad to be back, but struggling with soaring costs and logistics woes

SINGAPORE – In her first week selling traditional and casual outfits for women and children at the Ramadan bazaar in Wisma Geylang Serai, Ms Ereen had to display older collections of clothes as new stock had not arrived from Malaysia.

She was confirmed for a booth only about a week before April 2, the first day of the festive fair.

Compounded by slower shipments due to the ongoing global supply chain disruption, she currently has only 50 to 60 per cent of the apparel needed to stock her booth.

Ms Ereen, who declined to reveal her full name, said her first batch of new stock arrived only late last week.

Business is also slower than in the years before the pandemic, said Ms Ereen, who is in her third year at the bazaar.

“Two weeks in, business at our stall, Truffles&Cookie, has seen a drop of 40 per cent compared with the same period in previous years. But we are optimistic about this long (Good Friday and Easter) weekend,” she said.

While vendors are relieved that bazaars have made a return after a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic, stallholders have been struggling to keep their businesses optimal amid supply chain woes, higher rents and increased food and oil prices.

Some vendors also said they had to rush to set up their booths and secure equipment and supplies, as their bids for stall space were confirmed only a week before the bazaars opened.

According to government procurement portal GeBiz, the People’s Association awarded the tender for the running of the Geylang Serai bazaar to Orange Travel on March 23 – less than two weeks before its start.

At the Ang Mo Kio Central pasar malam (night market), Ramly burger stall owner Zain Abdul Rahin said his booth was confirmed only two days before the night market opened on April 9. It was a rush for him to secure key items like patties and buns.

Previously, stalls would have a month’s lead time to prepare, he added.

The Original Vadai is one of the more popular food stalls at the Geylang Serai bazaar, with snaking queues and some of its snacks being sold out early.

Still, its director Stephen Suriyah said margins have been hit by soaring oil and flour prices. Ingredient prices have surged worldwide due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“In 2021, I used to buy a tin of cooking oil for $21. Today, the same cooking oil costs up to $52. Cooking oil is one of our highest used raw materials, and we use at least 150 tins a week.

“We have to increase food prices slightly just to stay afloat and earn a little,” he said, adding that he had to raise the price of his snacks such as the popular prawn vadai by 50 per cent.