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Pork supply in S'pore safe, as strike ends at Indonesian farm
Publication Date : 17-09-2013
Concerns over pork supply to Singapore have eased for now with the end of a six-day strike at an Indonesian farm that is the second-biggest supplier of live pigs to the city-state.
Some 175 workers, or more than half of the farm's workforce, will go back to work today after the farm's operator, Indo Tirta Suaka, on Monday agreed to reopen talks next Monday to resolve a pay dispute.
This is "a positive step towards listening to workers' needs and welfare", said Duma Sitanggang, a labour union leader representing the workers there.Company representatives could not be reached at press time.
A human resources officer declined comment when contacted by The Straits Times.
Indo Tirta Suaka, a subsidiary of the Salim Group, operates a 1,500-hectare pig farm on Pulau Bulan, 2.5km south-west of Batam.
The farm is the only supplier of live pigs from Indonesia to Singapore, exporting 6,000 of them a week to the city-state.
The farm's workers had been demonstrating since last Tuesday for higher wages, mirroring rising labour tensions across Indonesia over a disparity between robust growth and stagnant wages.
Earlier, the farm's workers had complained that they were sent warning letters to return to work or be fired, a form of intimidation, Duma said.
Pork sellers contacted yesterday had not been concerned that supply would be affected.
Chung Suan Lim, president of the Meat Traders' Association (Singapore), pointed out that even if work slowed at the farm, "pigs are not grown overnight; they take six months to grow to a size where they can be shipped. So supply is not an issue".
Still, some suppliers like Tiong Lian Food had put in place contingency plans to get pork from elsewhere after news of the strike emerged, said its general manager, Andy Tang.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority had also earlier said the nation's pork supply would not be affected.
Last year, the most recent year for which figures are available, Singapore imported about 110,800 tonnes of pork.
Brazil was the biggest supplier, accounting for 30 per cent while Indonesia was second at 20 per cent. Europe, the United States, Australia and others accounted for the rest.
The last time Singapore's imports of live pigs were halted was in 1999, when farms in Malaysia were hit by the Nipah virus, which killed about 100 pig farmers there and an abattoir worker here.
Others fell ill with encephalitis, but recovered.
Then, live pig imports were banned for a month, and Singapore ramped up its pork purchases from Australia.