Mr Hong Poh Hin, Chairman, Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good evening. I am pleased to join you today at the inauguration ceremony for the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association’s (FRCBMA) 82nd Executive Committee.
2. Today, the association represents over 400 coffee shops in Singapore, which I believe is more than one-third of the coffee shops in Singapore. We are all familiar with the “kopi tiam” in our neighbourhood. Many of these coffee shops, which are in the heartlands, form a central thread of Singapore’s social fabric and daily life. The “kopi tiam” is where we have our favourite comfort food – from kaya toast and kopi C, to mee siam and roti prata. Itis also a place where we catch up with our neighbours and friends. For these reasons and more, coffee shops are iconically Singaporean and close to our hearts.
Impact of COVID-19 on Food Services sector
3. Over the past two and a half years, the Food Services sector battled several waves of disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a challenging time, but many F&B business merchants like you displayed great tenacity. You have adapted quickly, pivoted to new modes of operation, and repositioned yourselves for growth.
Your adoption of technology has helped widened your customer reach. Many stall owners who were initially unfamiliar with technology have taken the brave step of going digital. Today, it is common to see e-payment platforms like PayNow and PayLah at coffee shops. Customers can also order food from coffee shops to be delivered via platforms like GrabFood and Foodpanda. We are very proud of your resilience and transformation. Well done!
Larger players like Chang Cheng supplied bento meals to support foreign worker dormitories during the Circuit Breaker period. They optimised the operations of coffee shop stalls by supplying ready-to-cook products, which also reduced the stalls’ manpower needs.
Some companies have embarked on projects to automate their operations to raise efficiency. For example, with the support of the Enterprise Development Grant, Kimly has adopted the use of automated equipment in its central kitchen to replace manual food preparation processes. Yummy Palace reduced manpower needs by using food delivery robots to serve customers their orders.
4. With a lot of hard work and determination, our local businesses have emerged stronger from the pandemic. However, economic headwinds are blowing our way from different parts of the world.
Businesses and households are facing rising costs due to a confluence of factors, such as the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as the pandemic situation in several parts of the world. These have worsened the disruptions to supply chains and led to higher global commodity prices, particularly for energy and food.
Global inflation is expected to remain high and may even increase further before stabilising.
We must brace ourselves for higher prices over the next few months, including energy prices, which are likely to remain elevated over the second half of the year.
5. We understand and are keenly aware that businesses are anxious about cost pressures. The Government will help to cushion near-term energy cost increases as well as provide additional support for local businesses with cash flow concerns.
We have brought forward the disbursement of the Small Business Recovery Grant, to provide one-off cash support of up to $10,000 per firm to small businesses most affected by COVID-19 restrictions. The disbursement was done in the last week of June. Over 40,000 eligible businesses have received the grant.
We will co-fund efforts by SMEs to be more energy efficient, through a new Energy Efficiency Grant. The grant will run from September this year to March next year and will provide SMEs from the Food Services, Food Manufacturing and Retail sectors with up to 70% support to adopt energy-efficient equipment in the pre-approved categories.
In addition, we have enhanced the Government’s co-funding share of wage increases for low-wage workers and other vulnerable workers. Under the Progressive Wage Credit Scheme (PWCS), we have increased our co-funding share for wage increases in 2022 from 50% to 75% for wages up to $2,500, and 30% to 45% for wages above $2,500 and up to $3,000.
We have also extended the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) for another six months – till March 2023 – to sustain support for employers of mature workers, people with disabilities, and ex-offenders.
6. Government has also injected close to $250 million into supporting local businesses, through the CDC Vouchers Scheme 2021 and 2022, launched in December 2021 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and in May 2022 by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong respectively.
7. I am delighted to share that CDC Voucher Scheme which aims to help households with their daily expenses, continues to be well received and widely used by Singaporeans. As of today, over 86.8% or 1.06 million Singaporean households have claimed their 2022 CDC Vouchers. The first tranche of CDC Vouchers Scheme launched last December also saw a rise, with over 96.8% or 1.18 million Singaporean households claiming their 2021 CDC Vouchers.
8. In terms of the amount spent, over $101m has been spent using the 2021 CDC Vouchers, and about $62m has been spent using the 2022 CDC Vouchers.
9. Collectively, more than $163m has been spent with the 2021 and 2022 tranches of CDC Vouchers. Of this amount, more than $27m or 16.6% of the vouchers was spent in 2,800 stalls from 677 coffee shops.
10. To date, we have more than 17,700 participating merchants and hawkers onboard the CDC Voucher Scheme, of which 1 in 6 are stalls in coffee shops. I want to assure you that the Government will be giving every Singaporean household two more tranches of CDC vouchers. For the next two tranches, it will be $200, one tranche in 2023 and another in 2024.
11. Beyond these support measures, the Food Services sector needs to continue to transform and adopt solutions to future-proof its offerings.
We launched the Food Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025 earlier this year, which focuses on growth strategies such as driving digitalisation and catalysing innovation. In line with the ITM, we will also be launching a refreshed Food Services Industry Digital Plan to guide businesses in using advanced technologies to support their digital transformation.
12. I strongly encourage our businesses to continue their transformation journey. Keep on innovating to capture new growth opportunities!
13. Before I conclude, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.
14. 尊敬的新加坡福州咖啡酒餐商公会 洪宝兴主席，各位公会同仁，各位嘉宾，大家晚上好！
19. 政府方面，我们聆听了餐饮业者所面对的挑战，并宣布了7000万元的餐饮和零售业振兴配套，除了大家熟悉的补贴和援助配套，我们也在今年五月中旬，推出了“食品服务行业转型计划2025” ，希望进一步推动食品创新，带动更多本土品牌走向区域化，满足消费者对便利、健康和可持续食品的要求。
22. 接下来，政府将分别在2023年和2024年，为每户新加坡家庭提供200元的邻里购物券。我们希望更多咖啡店及摊位，加入社理会邻里购物券计划。今天，我有两名人民协会的同事Kar Yee和Patsy在现场，大家可以向她们了解参加计划的细节。
24. On this note, I would like to thank the outgoing committee for your unwavering dedication. You have helped our Food Services sector weather through the uncertainty and storms, especially during the pandemic.
25. To the new Committee members, congratulations on your appointments. I look forward to your continued efforts and wish you every success in leading the association to greater heights.
26. Thank you.