Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Planning Markets, on 5 October 2020
Mr Sharael Taha: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether there are any criteria to determine the number and size of wet markets in a town; and (b) if so, whether there are plans to review and upgrade the wet markets in towns that are growing in size.
Most of our markets were built as part of hawker centres between 1967 and 1985, to resettle street hawkers into purpose-built buildings such as those built in new public housing estates to serve the residents’ needs.
Over time, consumer trends and preferences have shifted due to changing demographics, as well as the widespread availability of alternative options such as supermarkets and online retailers. Wet markets in their current form have gradually become less popular. Thus, when these older markets underwent the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme from 2001 to 2013, market stalls vacated by stallholders retiring from the trade were removed to free up space for wider passageways and bigger areas for the remaining stalls. Similarly, when the Government announced in 2011 that it would restart the building of hawker centres, efforts were focused on increasing the number of cooked food stalls in new estates or existing estates with insufficient affordable eating options.
Currently, the provision of new markets or expansion of existing ones will be considered only if there is strong demand and support, or where there is a shortage of other sources of market produce in the area. This is to ensure the viability of the market stalls. From our experience, new markets, such as the one at Jurong West Hawker Centre, have generally not fared well. The concept of future markets would need to evolve to meet the emerging needs and preferences of consumers who have the options to buy online and from full-day, even 24-hour, supermarkets. To this end, the National Environment Agency will continue to work with relevant government agencies and the community to monitor the situation and ensure that residents’ needs are met.