Singaporeans debate hawker centre food prices after woman bids $10,000 rental and subsequently withdraws it

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

In a rather disappointing story, a woman who successfully bid more than $10,000 for a hawker stall, decided to change her mind and withdrew said bid.

The woman, Ms Lim Ah Ber, bit S10,028 for a stall at Chomp Chomp Food Centre in order to sell drinks.

According to the National Environment Agency, she ended the tenancy agreement the same day she signed it. The NEA also added that her bid was the highest successful bid received to date.

NEA said the average tender bid received for cooked food stalls at Chomp Chomp since June last year was $1,707.50.

The $10,000 Chomp Chomp bid is significantly higher than the figures in many other hawker centres in the latest July bidding exercise.

Dr Amy Khor, then Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, assured in Parliament last year that hawker prices will be kept in check.

In a letter published by The Straits Times last year, NEA also addressed public concerns about high hawker bids driving up food prices. It cited a study on the possible drivers affecting hawker food prices, which showed that stall rentals form about only 12 per cent of total costs.

The study, which was done by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources.

Dr Lee Bee Wah, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Water Resources, said isolated high bids such as those for the Chomp Chomp stall will not have an immediate effect on hawker food prices, especially if they are terminated immediately.

She said: “In hawker centres, most stalls have close competitors. The price charged by competitors has a huge effect on what a stall can charge.”

Hawker centre stall prices could have seen a rise because of the recent bid to list Singapore hawker culture under the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

According to NEA, Ms Lim will not be debarred from participating in future tender exercises and will have her deposit returned as she signed the tenancy agreement before cancelling it.

A spokesperson said, “Stallholders who wish to terminate their tenancy agreement are required to give one month’s notice, and pay their monthly rental and other operating charges. The successful tenderer in this case had given the requisite termination notice and also paid the first month’s stall rental and operating charges”.

The NEA added, “We encourage the tenderers to consider the overall overhead costs for their business when submitting their bids, and ensure that their business can be sustainable.”

Many netizens worried about the rising price of hawker food if such high rental bids were made. They griped that raising prices would be inevitable in order to cover such high rental costs.

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obbana@theindependent.sg