The agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors employ roughly ten percent of the Malaysian labor force and account for about eight percent of the country’s GDP. Palm oil, rubber, cocoa, and wood products account for around half of the output, while other significant contributors include tropical fruits and rice.
Malaysia is the world’s second largest palm oil producer and exporter after Indonesia. Malaysia’s palm oil production accounted for 26 percent of world production and 34 percent of world exports in 2020. As additional land for palm oil production is unavailable, any increase in national output at this point would have to come from yield and productivity increases. Malaysian palm oil companies also have a significant presence in Indonesia and have invested in palm oil refineries in major markets such as Europe, India, China, and the United States. Many of Malaysia’s largest and most successful companies are palm oil plantation enterprises where the state holds an ownership share.
Poultry is the dominant protein consumed in the country. The poultry and pork sectors are relatively strong and well developed. Rice is considered a staple product in Malaysia, though the country depends on imports to meet about 30 percent of its needs.
Malaysia has a relatively strong agricultural research capability, especially in the palm oil sector, and the extension system is effective. The GOM subsidizes rice production through support prices, input subsidies, and consumer subsidies. Although the Ministry of Agriculture focuses on other sectors, almost all new meaningful agriculture investment is destined for the palm oil plantation sector.
Despite ongoing research in this area, there is no commercial production of genetically engineered (GE) plants in the country.
Malaysia’s Food Act of 1983 and the Food Regulations of 1985 govern food import and export regulations or procedures. The MOH Food Safety and Quality division, along with several other government agencies, are charged with implementing and enforcing the law under these statutes, including routine compliance, sampling, inspection, import control, and regulation. Malaysia’s halal certification and dairy facility registration requirements are notable among the many regulations and required procedures related to shipping food and agricultural products to the country. For additional information, please see the latest Food and Agriculture Import Regulations and Standards (FAIRS) Report from the Foreign Agricultural Service.
Halal Certification: All beef, poultry, and dairy products require halal certification to enter Malaysia. Customers in Malaysia may also require certification for other food products, depending on the end use. Currently, the Islamic Development Foundation of Malaysia (JAKIM) has approved three U.S.-based Islamic institutions to inspect and certify food and beverage products as halal for export to Malaysia: the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), the Islamic Services of America (ISA), and the American Halal Foundation (AHF). For additional information, please see FAS’s report on halal in Malaysia.
Dairy Facility Registration: Malaysia requires foreign producers and exporters of dairy products to apply for registration with the government. For additional information about this requirement, please see FAS’s related report.
Malaysia’s global agricultural trade reached $59.4 billion in 2021, with exports of $36.1 billion and imports of $23.3 billion. Palm oil has been the dominant export and the leading markets over the past several years for this Malaysian product include India, the European Union, China, Pakistan, and the United States. Indonesia, China, and Thailand are the top suppliers of agricultural products to Malaysia, with the United States ranked sixth in 2021. Despite the agricultural trade surplus with the world of $13.8 billion, Malaysia nonetheless heavily relies on imports for many essential products, including wheat, rice, protein meal, dairy products, beef, and most deciduous and citrus fruits.
U.S.-Malaysia bilateral agricultural trade was at $2.16 billion in 2021. U.S. agricultural product exports in 2021 saw an increase of 12 percent to $1.2 billion compared to $1.1 recorded in 2020. Soybeans remain the top U.S. export to Malaysia with sales reaching $2.6 million for the year.
Additional information about Malaysia as a market for U.S. food and agricultural products is available in FAS’s Exporter Guide. FAS’s Malaysia office may also be contacted using the information below.
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Malaysia
Office of the Agricultural Affairs
Embassy of the United States of America
376, Jalan Tun Razak
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 50400
Tel: (011-60-3) 2168-5082
Fax: (011-60-3) 2168-5023