Malaysia eases chicken export ban after protests

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia partially lifted on Tuesday a ban on chicken exports that was aimed at fighting domestic shortages but sent prices soaring in neighboring Singapore, sparking squawks of protest.

However, the curbs are only being eased on a small number of chicken types — and not the one most commonly exported to Singapore — meaning the impact could be limited.

The halt on monthly exports of 3.6 million chickens, which began on June 1, was the latest protectionist step in Asia as prices of everyday goods surge.

But it caused consternation in Singapore, a tiny city-state that relies on its larger neighbor for a good chunk of its food imports, including about a third of its chicken.

There were particular concerns over the impact on “chicken rice,” a hugely popular dish of poached chicken, rice and chili dip, with some vendors hiking their prices or temporarily closing stalls.

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Malaysian authorities have now decided to allow exports of free-range and black chickens, according to a notice from the Southeast Asian country’s Department of Veterinary Services seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Singapore media reported that exports resumed on Tuesday.

However, the ban remains for so-called broiler chickens, larger birds reared in commercial operations, which are the type most commonly exported to Singapore.

The Singapore poultry merchants’ association expressed relief, but downplayed the impact of the move, as free-range chickens are more expensive than broiler birds, according to the Channel News Asia outlet.

“I don’t think customers will want to fully switch to selling kampung (free-range) chicken for the time being,” said Ma Chin Chew, the group’s secretary.

Like many other countries, Malaysia is battling rising inflation, particularly in food, which prompted it to impose the curbs.

But Singapore is also facing rising prices, with its inflation at a 10-year high.

Other countries that have taken protectionist measures include India, which banned wheat exports, and Indonesia, which temporarily halted palm oil shipments.