Malaysian food industry is as diverse as the cultures in Malaysia with wide range of processed food with Asian taste. This industry is predominantly Malaysian-owned, dominated by small and medium scale companies (SMEs). Besides the SMEs, there are notable foreign and MNCs companies producing processed food products in Malaysia. It encompasses sectors such as cocoa and chocolate products, fishery products, cereals and cereal products, processed fruits and vegetables, confectionery, food ingredients, herbs and spices, beverages, animal feed, and others.
Total export processed food contributed about RM20 billion and are exported to more than 200 countries, while import processed food totalled RM18.7 billion in 2016.
Major processed food exports were edible products and preparations (RM6.0 billion), cocoa and cocoa preparations (RM4.6 billion), prepared cereals & flour preparations (RM3.3 billion), margarine and shortening (RM1.3 billion) and dairy products (RM1.2 billion). Malaysia exported food products to more than 200 countries. Major export destinations were Singapore, Indonesia, USA, Thailand and Republic of China. Raw materials such as cereals and dairy products continued to be imported for further processing.
The main imports of processed food were edible products and preparations (RM5.5 billion), sugar and sugar confectionary (RM4.0 billion), dairy products (RM3.0 billion), prepared / preserved vegetables and fruits (RM1.8 billion) and cocoa and cocoa preparations (RM1.5 billion). Raw materials such as dairy products and cereals will continue to be imported for further processing for human consumption and animal feed production.
Malaysia is self-sufficient in poultry and eggs, but imports about 80% of its beef requirements. Among the dairy products produced are milk powder, sweetened condensed milk, pasteurized or sterilized liquid milk, ice cream, yoghurt and other fermented milk.
The fisheries product’s sub-sector is export oriented which includes processed seafood products such as frozen and canned fish, fillet, surimi and surimi products.
Malaysia is currently the largest cocoa processor in Asia. Although Malaysia is the world’s fifth largest cocoa processor local cocoa bean production could not support the huge demand from local grinding and processing industry. Most of the cocoa beans are imported.
Agriculture is one of the sectors identified in the National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs). It focuses on selected sub-sectors including aquaculture, seaweed farming, high value herbal products, fruits and vegetables which have high-growth potential. There is a growing demand for these high value products which provide opportunities for farmers to increase their income. In addition, the paddy and livestock sub-sectors were also selected due to their strategic nature in ensuring national food security.
In the fruits and vegetables sub-sector, premium fruits and vegetables has been identified under NKEA with the aims to export local premium fruits and vegetables to the Middle East and Europe, which import more than 50% of the global production of higher quality local fruits and vegetables that comply with food safety standards. Six high-value non-seasonal tropical fruits (rock melon, starfruit, papaya, banana, pineapple and jackfruit) and three high-value highland vegetables (lettuce, tomato and capsicum) have been identified as the target produce.
Increasing consumer awareness in nutrition value and food fortification for healthcare has created the demand for functional food, healthy minimally processed fresh food, organic food and natural food flavours from plants and seafood. Food ingredients such as customised formulations required by food manufacturers, natural food additives and flavours have the potential for further growth.
The halal industry in Malaysia provides immense opportunities for Malaysian manufacturers. Malaysia is at the forefront in developing halal standards in line with the vision to become a global Halal Hub by 2020. The global halal market is currently estimated at US$2.3 trillion, covering both food and non-food sectors. It was estimated that the potential value of the global halal food market contributes US$560 billion annually. By the year 2018, world Muslim consumer expenditure is expected to grow to US$2.4 trillion from US$1.6 trillion in 2012.
The concept of halal is associated with food products which are of high quality in terms of cleanliness, sanitation and compliance with religious requirements.