Hawkers Claim They Will Make Losses of Up to $100 a Day After Management Set a Limit on Price of Dabao Boxes

Last Updated on 2023-01-01 , 1:31 pm

With the recent opening of Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre last Saturday (17 December), it’s no secret that many Singaporeans all over the island have flocked to try out the new food stalls there.

I mean, how could you give it a miss when there’s a self-ordering kiosk? Yes, no more trying to converse with the hawkers in your broken Hokkien or Chinese.

But there’s one thing that’s been keeping some people from going there, specifically when they’re looking to dabao (takeaway) food.

The dabao containers.

And before you go, “Wait, what?”, here’s the catch: The takeaway containers at the hawker centre are all biodegradable, and the stalls charged anywhere between 20 to 80 cents when the hawker centre first opened last week.

I mean, even our blue cat agreed that $0.80’s pretty steep just for a dabao box.


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After a few days, however, Canopy Hawkers, the firm responsible for managing Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre, announced that all the stalls would charge no more than 30 cents for dabao boxes in the future.

However, it seems like another issue has arisen due to the management’s decision.

This time, it has to do with the hawkers.

Hawkers’ Reactions

When reporters from Shin Min Daily News visited the hawker centre today (21 December) morning, most of the hawkers claimed that they had already been absorbing part of the costs spent on purchasing the biodegradable dabao boxes.

Many also touched on how they hope the management can offer them more help to resolve any cost issues related to takeaway packaging soon.

Liu Xiaoxuan (Hanyu pinyin), the stall owner of the Japanese rice stall, explained that the total cost of using biodegradable boxes, cutlery and plastic bags to contain the takeaway orders averages out to around 60 cents per order.

Her stall used to charge 50 cents for takeaway orders but lowered it to 30 cents after the management’s decision.

She then highlighted that it is rather difficult to find biodegradable dabao boxes in the market.

However, she added that the management offered the hawkers some suppliers’ contacts and that she has been searching for the supplier that sells the boxes at the lowest price.

She also revealed that she is able to get her takeaway materials at around 60 cents per dish only due to the large number of supplies that she orders and that the cost per dish would be higher if she orders fewer supplies from her supplier.

Another hawker, Mr Wu, shared that the takeaway boxes his stall uses cost 53 cents each.

Mr Wu, who runs the Korean Cuisine stall, added that along with the biodegradable cutlery, plastic bags and Goods and Services Tax, the materials for each order amount to around $1 per order.

He had initially decided to charge customers 80 cents for takeaway orders but can only charge 30 cents now, meaning that he has to absorb even more of the costs.

According to him, he may end up making a loss of nearly $100 every day just from the packaging costs that he has to bear.

Based on his observations, most customers also tend not to bring their own reusable containers when dabao-ing food and most of the people who do are older customers.

Mr Wu, who has been a hawker for many years, also mentioned that the management has said that they will communicate further with the hawkers to see if any better solutions can be implemented.

Management’s Response

Regarding the pricing of the takeaway containers, Canopy Hawkers Group told Goody Feed that their goal is to make Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre a “green hawker centre through green practices”.

According to Joey Tan, the group’s Managing Director, this includes “[reducing] the use of disposables and [working] with all our stallholders to ensure that disposable crockery and utensils will not be served for patrons who dine in at the hawker centre”.

As for individuals who choose to dabao their food, they are encouraged to bring and use their reusable containers to store the food they buy at the hawker centre.

Mr Tan emphasised that most of the stalls have been charging 20 to 30 cents for takeaway packaging since the hawker centre’s opening and that Canopy Hawkers has decided to standardise the price of takeaway packaging to be at most 30 cents for all stalls.

“[W]e have taken in the feedback and have quickly worked with our stallholders. We are also assisting our stallholders by sourcing and introducing vendors who offer bulk-buy programmes for takeaway packaging to keep costs low,” Mr Tan added.

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Previously, he told Shin Min Daily News that the hawkers do not earn a “significantly high” profit from the amount they charge for their takeaway boxes and that they charge around the same price as establishments that also use biodegradable takeaway packaging.

Additionally, as Singapore’s first hawker centre to prioritise being environmentally friendly, he added that Canopy Hawkers hopes other hawker centres can follow suit by adopting similar practices.

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Featured Image: Shin Min Daily News