What You Need To Know About The 'Chicken Rice Crisis'

It might not look like much, but a chicken rice set is a must-have for anyone visiting Singapore. The dish is a complete meal in itself, and consists of a cooked piece of chicken that is roasted, poached, or steamed per Michelin, and served with rice cooked in chicken broth. Sides include boiled rice cooked up in a broth and flavored with pandan leaves, a cup of clear chicken soup, and a variety of dipping sauces including chili, to amp up the chicken's flavors. Deceptively simple, but oh so delectable, chicken rice is considered Singapore's national dish per Roots, and it can be found everywhere food is served in the country — from hawker stands — which have received coveted Michelin stars — to posh hotel lobbies. 

But like many unexpected things that have unfolded in the post-pandemic world, chicken rice might not be as accessible or easily enjoyed, if export bans and supply chain issues aren't resolved quickly. Singaporeans are realizing that their beloved chicken rice could become more scarce and more expensive if Malaysia decides to go ahead with the decision to ban poultry exports beginning this month. CNN Business says Singapore gets about a third of its chickens — or about 3.6 million mostly live birds from its neighbor, and if the ban is enforced, the price of chickens which are currently at about $3 per bird, could jump to as much as $5 per bird — if they can be found at all.

Chickens for Singapore chicken rice need to be purchased live

Singapore's appetite for chicken rice is a tricky one to fill because vendors need to purchase their chickens live. Vendors like Lim Wei Keat say they are fighting public impressions over what is tasty and what isn't. "The perception of frozen is ... there is the freezer smell or the texture is different. But honestly, I've not seen a big difference. We eat the chickens in [fast food] restaurants and they taste pretty good," per BBC.

While Lim is working hard to keep the price of chicken rice steady for his customers, other hawkers have indicated they might have to shut down, at least temporarily, until Malaysia lifts its export ban. Others, like the father and son team of Ah Ho and Thomas, are talking about closing permanently. "Nobody knows what's going to come in the next month or so, or how long this shortage will go on but with the way that it's looking, it might finally be time for us to throw in the towel and close shop," Thomas told CNN Business.

But chicken rice hawkers may not need to worry if their clients are as faithful as Rachel Chong, who told the BBC, "If we are able to afford that, we should still support businesses like coffee shops or restaurants. We shouldn't hold back because it went up by a few cents."