Food to Thailand
Trends and opportunities
Thailand is the second-biggest economy in ASEAN and a major global tourism
destination. This dynamic and consumer-driven market with rising disposable
income and huge visitor market of around 35 million is increasing its
demand for imported food and beverages, offering many opportunities for
The economic growth and urbanisation in Thailand over the last few decades
has contributed to growing demand for higher-value fresh and processed
products amongst a well-educated, middle and upper-income population.
Quality and health considerations, rather than price, are becoming key
purchasing factors. Bangkok’s metropolitan area remains Thailand’s largest
consumer market but higher disposable incomes and increased tourism in
regional Thailand is also fuelling new demand for quality imported food and
beverages in these areas.
Thai consumers are paying more attention to a healthy diet and view
Australia as a reliable, reputable supplier of clean, healthy and high
quality products. Australian products do not compete with lower–priced,
locally manufactured products, but with other imported products from the
US, Japan, European Union and Korean markets.
Australia is the major market supplier for premium imported beef and lamb,
competing with the US, New Zealand and Japan. Dairy imports are
dominated by New Zealand, but there is now a wide variety of Australian
dairy produce currently being imported, presenting a significant
opportunity to grow sales in this area.
Although the majority of consumers still prefer traditional fresh food
markets, they are increasingly turning to modern supermarkets and
ready-to-eat food items are emerging as popular alternatives to home
Thailand is a leading global supplier of a wide variety of commodities and
products including rice, rubber, cassava, sugar, seafood, poultry meat,
frozen food, ready-to-eat foods and processed fruits and vegetables.
The country is a regional and global food manufacturer, particularly for
tuna, prawns and chicken. Thai Union Frozen is the world’s largest
processor of seafood products. Thailand is home to one of the biggest
agribusiness conglomerates, the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), which has
extensive investments and production in over 20 countries. Other Thai
agribusiness conglomerates are looking at diversification and expansion
Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industry, featuring major local and
multinational hotel and restaurant chains, source considerable volumes of
imported foods. The food and beverage manufacturing industry also sources
products internationally and uses Australian ingredients, including dairy
products, food additives, flavourings and cereals.
Thailand has a developing dairy production industry but imported processed
dairy products still account for 65 per cent of annual needs.
International cuisine has become increasingly popular among Thais. Imported
food items needed to meet the demands of the food service industry include:
fresh fruit and vegetables
smoked salmon and seafood
grain and cereal products
chocolate and confectionery
100 per cent fruit juice and drinks
jams and spreads
dairy products and milk powder
meat and meat by-products.
The Thai Government has developed a policy to present Thailand as the
‘kitchen of the world’. This provides Australian exporters with an
opportunity to supply quality raw materials for the manufacture of food
Thailand is also a major manufacturer of halal certified food for export to
the Muslim world, and there are opportunities for Australian suppliers of
raw materials with halal certification to export to Thailand.
Tariffs, Regulations and Customs
Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement
(TAFTA) has eliminated tariffs on most products imported from Australia
including food, with the exception of beef, cheese, some dairy ingredients
and potato seeds. The elimination of import tariffs on most food items and
favorable tariff rates on other foods places Australian food exporters in
an excellent position to compete in Thailand.
Thai regulations prohibit processed food ingredients containing genetically
modified organisms, such as the Cry9C DNA sequence, which potentially
includes frozen or chilled corn, taco shells, corn chips, corn flakes, corn
meal or corn flour.
Control of the importation, marketing, distribution and sales in the
processed food industry is shared between a number of Thai Government
Most food products (fresh or processed) attract over 30 per cent tariff on
the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value, plus 7 per cent Value
Added Tax (VAT). Products can be imported tariff-free if the final product
is for re-exportation.
Thai law requires that only locally registered companies can conduct
Thailand Board of Investment
provides information on establishing a company.
Quality and hygiene are areas of major focus areas in the processed food
sector. Many international firms have established a presence in Thailand to
supply services related to food safety and hygiene issues.
The following food safety standards are required when exporting food items
Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) – a general standard.
- Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points (HACCP) – an internationally
Food products must be approved and registered with the Thai FDA prior to
importation. This process typically takes two to eight weeks per individual
The Thai FDA only recognises documents issued by a government organisation
or a commercial organisation that is certified by the International Accreditation Forum. The
accredited body for Australia is JAS-ANZ.
The commercial organisations (certifying bodies) that are recognised by JAS-ANZ to issue certificates are the
only certifying bodies accepted by the Thai FDA for the purpose of product
registration. The FDA requires all documentation to be certified as true
copies by the relevant embassy. Austrade Bangkok provides this
certification service to exporters free of charge.
When seeking registration, suppliers must provide:
two samples of each product
details of the exact composition by percentage of each ingredient
a production flowchart
Food products must display the following information in English:
name and brand of the product (both generic and trade)
name and address of the importer
manufacturing and expiry dates
net weight and volume
any additives used
health and nutritional claims (if any).
For more information, visit the Thai Food and Drug Administration
Marketing your products and services
The following market entry strategies should be considered:
- Appoint a local importer, agent or distributor (as a locally-registered
company must handle importation procedures and documentation).
- Establish and manage a cool chain for consistent supply of fresh produce
- Invest in local (or regionally based) food production facilities to take
advantage of the ASEAN Free Trade Area program and more efficiently service
- Participate in food exhibitions, which provide effective exposure for
your company and products.
There is no English-language industry news for the processed food industry
available in Thailand, but the National Food Institute and Royal Thai Customs have statistics
and further information on the processed food industry.
A local importer, agent or distributor can establish direct sales to
supermarkets and retail chains. Local operators better understand the needs
of the local customer and can suggest improvements for tailoring products
accordingly. The leading supermarkets and hypermarkets in Thailand include:
Tesco, Makro, Big C, Foodland, The Mall Group, Villa Market, Rim Ping and
Australian companies have a reputation for making good business partners
and Thai companies value long-term, personal business relationships.
Airfreight – the only option for perishable products – is used to ship
product samples in small quantities. Several airlines transport goods
between major ports in Australia and Thailand.
Large volumes of products can be transported by sea freight and take about
two weeks from Australia to Thailand. Once imported products arrive in
Thailand and any duties have been paid, products can be transported freely
in the country.
Consider a goods freight forwarder, insurance company and customs broker for
transporting your product. Austrade can provide you with a list of these
Links and industry contacts
Government, business and trade
Thailand-Australia FTA Portal
Airports of Thailand PLC
Australian Embassy Bangkok
Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Royal Thai Customs Department
Stock Exchange of Thailand
Thai Airways International
Thai International Freight Forwarders Association
Thai National Food Institute
Thailand Board of Investment
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Tourism Authority of Thailand
The Bangkok Post
Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.
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