Malaysia, one of the most developed countries in Southeast Asia, is also a major importer of food, with annual imports of US$14 billion. In certain food market segments, Malaysia is almost totally dependent on the importation, especially in the meat sector, along with dairy, seafood and cocoa.
Malaysia, a rather small nation that sits as a gateway between the Indian Ocean and the China Sea, is a global economic power with a huge influence in SE Asia. Its extremely diverse population and cuisine combined with a high GDP created a constant demand for a wide variety of food an beverages from around the world, fueling imports and the development of importers and distributors for both ethnic and premium products, among others.
The popular health/organic foods and convenience meals trends are also present in Malaysia and offer a lot of interesting opportunities for producers who are looking for this type of products in Asia.
A very important thing that exporters should take into consideration is that as the country’s population is over 65% Muslim, almost all food and ingredients destined for the food service sector must be certified halal. For a list of import declaration procedures and import restrictions, Malaysia’s Customs website can be accessed here.
Finding a reliable food importer/ distributor (most local food importers also distribute) in Malaysia is very important and companies will need their constant support in order to develop a marketing plan, branding and packaging for a market that can prove challenging because of its diversity.
If we analyze the countries that export the most in this region, China is Malaysia’s top supplier with imports from China reaching US$1.3 billion – around 18% of the market.. India took the second spot with exports worth US$747 million (11%), followed by Thailand (10%), New Zealand (9%) and Australia and US (both with 7%).
Almost all dairy product ingredients are imported, including nonfat and whole milk powder, whey, and other dairy solids. These imported products are then used to produce sweetened condensed milk, yogurt, and reconstituted fluid milk.
Malaysia’s imports of milk and cream have also increased significantly year-to-year, reaching US$63.7 million in 2019.
New Zealand (37%) U.S. (13%) and Australia (15%) are major suppliers for dairy products.
Cocoa and Sugar
Malaysia is the largest cocoa processor in Asia, but it relies on the importation of most of the raw ingredients. Thus, 95% of cocoa beans are imported, having an import value of US$1.08 billion.
213,841 tons of cocoa and semi-processed cocoa products were imported, major suppliers being Ghana (18.4%), Côte d’lvoire (17%) and Indonesia (12%).
Indonesian cocoa is suitable for blending with Malaysian cocoa and is the proximity of the supplier is a plus. On the other hand, cocoa from Côte d’lvoire and Ghana are used to produce premium chocolate products.
In the sugar and sweeteners categories, mainly used for confectionery, 1.9 million tons were imported. The top suppliers are: Brazil, Australia and Thailand.
Malaysia imports approx. 80% of its beef from other countries, reaching an import value of US$937.81 million.
Beef consumption in Malaysia is made up of meat derived from cattle and buffalo and it is the third most consumed livestock product with per capita consumption of around 6.5kg.
The domestic supply of beef meat is fulfilled by importation mainly from India (77%), Australia (14%) and New Zealand (5%). Live cattle are usually imported from Australia and Thailand. Indian imports are lower priced than local beef while Australian and New Zealand beef are a major source of quality halal meat.
Even if Malaysia is a country that has access to the sea, it imported US$964.95 million worth of fish & seafood products in 2019, a significant increase compared to the previous year.
Thailand is the main supplier of this product, followed by China (23%), Indonesia (16%), Vietnam (10%) and US (1%). There are lower priced imports from Thailand, Indonesia, and China and short delivery time due to the close proximity to Malaysia.
THREE FOOD IMPORTERS FROM MALAYSIA:
Chop Tong Guan
Address: 1148, Jalan Perindustrian Bukit Minyak 4, Bukit Mertajam
G & K Food
Address: 8, Jalan Temenggong 10, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, Johor Bahru
Sai Kim Group
Address: No.7, Jalan Bp 4/5, Kawasan Industri, Bandar Bukit Puchong