Wide availability of food is best safeguard to prevent 'runaway' cooked food prices: Govt

It has been regulating rent prices and has not increased rent over the past five years for 97% of the 374 coffee shops it owns.

Hannah Martens | February 07, 2024, 01:56 PM



Concerned about rising cooked food prices, Members of Parliament (MPs) asked whether the Ministry of National Development (MND) would consider taking further measures to assist coffee shop stallholders.

In reply, Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said in parliament that the "best safeguard" against "runaway cooked food prices" was to "ensure the wide availability of food".

She said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB), landlord to 374 out of the 776 coffee shops in Singapore, has played its part by keeping rent stable.

Rent did not increase for 97 per cent of HDB coffee shops

During the parliamentary sitting on Feb. 7, 2024, Sim answered questions filed by MP Yeo Wan Ling and subsequent questions from MP Jamus Lim.

Yeo said that some stallholders are facing the problem of increasing rental and overhead costs.

Sim answered that over the past five years, HDB had not increased the rent for 97 per cent of the coffee shops it owns — and for those that had increased rent, the median increase was 1.6 per cent.

She added that HDB also offers a 5 per cent rental discount for one year to help operators and stallholders in their move to provide budget meals by 2026.

These are part of HDB's efforts to help coffee shop operators and stallholders in a rising-cost environment.

"We do need to allow room for the coffee shop operators as well as stallholders to abide by market principles and operate. But we do our part to keep rents stable and also to encourage the provision of affordable meals via the budget meal initiative."

Best safeguard against runaway cooked food prices is by ensuring wide availability

Sim said that HDB does not regulate the store rental prices for privately sold coffee shops as those transactions are private commercial agreements between the owners and stallholders.

Lim asked if the government plans to potentially re-acquire some of the privately owned coffee shops so that the HDB would wholly own the "entire umbrella of coffee shops."

Sim replied that the government is not in the business of directly providing cooked food or stipulating its prices.

"Ultimately, the best safeguard against runaway cooked food prices is by ensuring wide availability, and this we do through ensuring that in towns and across the island there is a good spread of F&B premises."

She said that this does not apply only to coffee shops but also to other F&B outlets and hawker centres.

Sim added that it is important to be clear where the market is free to operate and where the government intervenes.

"In terms of a strategy that Lim has described, I think that's something that the government would consider very carefully and it's not a step that we would take lightly."

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