Did President Halimah Yacob ask Singaporeans to buy fish if chicken is too expensive?

We came across this image being circulated on Telegram groups, local forum Hardwarezone, online publication The Independent, and on social media:

A variation of the statement has also appeared on Facebook page Kuanyewism, and has garnered over 750 shares at time of writing:

The insinuation in the images is that President Halimah Yacob is out of touch, given that fish is generally viewed to be a more expensive meat as compared to chicken.

No way to chicken out of this crisis

For some context, Malaysia recently announced it will halt chicken exports from 1 June due to a shortage in the country. Singapore reportedly imports about one-third of its chicken supply from Malaysia.

In a statement, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said that it is closely monitoring the situation and is “working with stakeholders, such as importers to minimise the impact on our chicken supply”. SFA also urged consumers to “play their part by being open to switching choices within and across food groups (such as consuming frozen chicken instead of chilled) as well as other sources of meat products” and to “buy only what they need”.

More worryingly, seafood prices in Malaysia have also been reported to be rising sharply, due to the lack of supply of fish in waters off the country according to the National Fishermen’s Association. According to the association’s chairman, local fishermen estimate a decline of up to 70 per cent in fishes sighted off the seas.

According to wet market stall owners that TODAY spoke to, “most stall owners selling chicken said that prices started increasing in February while the upward trend began at the start of May for fish stall owners”.

Therefore, it does seem like President Halimah Yacob’s advice to switch to fish might not be the most helpful at this point of time.

Context is key

The quote is indeed legitimate, and was said by President Halimah Yacob back in November 2007 when she was the MP for Jurong GRC.

Then, the rising cost of living in Singapore was being debated in Parliament due to the rapid rise in food prices. This was attributed to the rising price of wheat (due to droughts in Australia and crop failures in the US) which led to the rise in cost of animal feed and meat.

President (then MP) Halimah Yacob was set to question then Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang on what the government is doing about this, and also said that more can be done to promote alternative food sources.

She was quoted as saying to The Straits Times: “For example, the price of chicken may be rising fast, but we can encourage Singaporeans to turn to alternative sources of protein, such as fish.”

Therefore, while it is true that President Halimah Yacob did give the example of fish as an alternative food source for Singaporeans to consider, it is important to consider the context in which it was said.

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