Food and agribusiness to Singapore

Trends and opportunities

The market

Singapore imports over 90% of the food consumed due to limited land available for agriculture. The nation of 5.5 million people relies primarily on external sources for food supplies – creating opportunities for international products and brands to export to Singapore.

Australia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and United States are Singapore’s main suppliers of food. Based on International Enterprise Singapore’s Statlink statistics, Australia was the largest supplier of beef, cheese and lamb products in 2016. Australia was also the second largest supplier of pork, milk and cream products to Singapore.

According to Global Trade Atlas (Australian Bureau of Statistics), Singapore was Australia’s tenth largest market for food, beverage and agribusiness products in 2016 with total exports valued at A$1.2 billion. Specifically for Australian wines, Singapore was the seven largest export market valued at A$73 million.

Singapore’s food and agribusiness industry can be divided into three broad segments – retail, food service and food manufacturing.


Singapore’s grocery retail sector is dominated by three supermarket chains - NTUC FairPrice, Dairy Farm International and Sheng Siong Group.

NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd was founded by the labour movement in 1973, with a social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore. From one supermarket, it has grown to become Singapore’s largest retailer serving over half a million shoppers daily, with a network of over 130 outlets. As the leading player in grocery retailing in Singapore, NTUC FairPrice offers some of the widest range of products in the country and caters to both price-conscious and higher-income consumers through its various convenience store, supermarket and hypermarket retailing formats.

Dairy Farm International is a member of the Jardine Matheson Group and its business is managed from Hong Kong. In Singapore, they are the second largest by market share. A variety of retailers operate under Dairy Farm International in Singapore - Cold Storage and Market Place supermarkets cater to mid-range to high-end consumers, whereas Giant hypermarkets and supermarkets cater to price-sensitive consumers.

Sheng Siong Group, a home-grown company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, is the third largest supermarket chain with its supermarkets catering to price-sensitive consumers. The company is expected to expand its presence and open more supermarkets in new areas.

The rest of the sector is fragmented comprising of small, mostly family-owned stores located within residential areas and a handful of specialty retail stores carrying premium products that cater to niche and higher-end consumers including expatriates. Specialty stores that target the expatriate market are keen to carry sustainably-sourced, sustainably-farmed and non-GMO products. There are a number of them which are Australian-linked such as Little Farms, Farm ‘N Pantry and The Fishwives.

Online retailing is gaining traction particularly among working adults as it gives them flexibility to shop around the clock and provide home delivery. RedMart is the largest online grocery retailer in Singapore, and is owned by Alibaba-backed Lazada. Amazon launched its Prime Now service in July 2017, and grocery products are available on the platform.

Distribution channels

The main supermarket chains may obtain products via direct import or through local importers and distributors. When product lines are sufficiently large in volume and have fast turnovers, supermarket chains are increasingly opting to import directly.

Retailers may also have appointed consolidators in specific countries, including Australia. Exporters supplying to consolidators can deliver orders that are in smaller volumes, as compared to the direct export model.

Distribution to wet markets, hawkers, small grocery and mom-and-pop stores is usually handled by distributors and intermediary wholesalers. The larger distributors usually have their own facilities to handle perishable goods and capabilities for re-packing and distribution to their customers.

Food service

Singapore has a thriving and constantly evolving food service sector, albeit predisposed to the state of the economy. A steady stream of international visitors and the propensity of local residents to eat out keep the food service sector in Singapore vibrant. The Singapore Tourism Board reported that Singapore received 16.4 million visitors that spent on S$2.97 billion food and beverage-related receipts in 2016. The sector’s robustness was validated when the first Singapore Michelin Guide was launched in 2016.

According to Singapore’s Department of Statistics, there are approximately 7,260 Food and Beverage establishments in Singapore, including restaurants, cafes, snack bars, food courts, fast food restaurants, food caterers etc.

Distribution channels

It is usually uncommon for food service companies like hotels and restaurant groups to import products themselves due to small volumes. They mostly depend on local distributors for supplies.

Food manufacturing

Singapore’s food manufacturing sector is small but efficient according to SPRING Singapore an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Singapore is made up of 847 establishments and contributes to approximately 1%of Singapore’s GDP.

With food science and technology gaining importance in the manufacturing value chain, Singapore food manufacturing companies are investing in R&D for more first-in-the-market products and enhancing their processes and packaging for better quality products. In November 2016, the Singapore government launched an Industry Transformation Map for the sector, with the vision of developing Singapore into Asia’s leading food and nutrition hub. Given the limited agricultural resources, this sector is fundamentally dependent on imports for ingredients and raw materials.


There is market interest for the following categories:

  • dairy
  • quality meats
  • seafood
  • functional / health food
  • organic food
  • private label
  • value-added products (e.g. ready-to-eat, convenience).

Not all imported food and agribusiness products are consumed locally with nearly 20 to 25% of all imported food being re-exported to the region and beyond. Singapore is home to the regional headquarters of many global companies and has a large base of commodity traders which serve the region. As ASEAN continues to grow economically, regional markets are looking to Singapore for trends and quality standards making Singaporea major trading and distribution hub for food and agribusiness products.

Competitive environment

Singapore has a highly developed open and trade-oriented market economy due to relatively easy market access and minimal trade barriers. Australia’s competitive advantages in Singapore are:

  • Strong brand recognition and position (‘clean and green’ reputation and high food safety standards)
  • High level of familiarity with Australia among end-consumers
  • Similar time zone
  • Counter-seasonal to the northern hemisphere
  • Strong sea and air connectivity between Australia and Singapore

Supply diversification is part of the nation’s food security policy to address any potential supply interruption. Hence it is worth noting that while the market presents minimal entry barriers for Australian exporters, their products will be exposed to many global food and agribusiness brands in-market.

Tariffs, regulations and customs

Singapore has no applicable tariffs or duties on food and agribusiness products – except in alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beveragesattract an excise duty, which is based on the product code and alcoholic content of the product e.g. wines attract an excise duty of S$88.00 per litre of alcohol.

Under the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), Australian beers, which satisfy the Rules of Origin requirements, are not predisposed to the customs duty of S$16.00 per litre of alcohol. However, the excise duty of S$60.00 per litre of alcohol is still applicable.

All goods imported into or manufactured in Singapore are subjected to 7%Goods and Services Tax (GST) and is applied on an ad valorem basis on all dutiable and non-dutiable goods. The GST taxable is calculated based on the Costs, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value plus all duties and other chargeable costs, whether or not shown on the invoice.

Import conditions

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) is a statutory board under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and was formed on 1 April 2019 to oversee food safety and food security from farm-to-fork. The SFA brings together food-related functions and is carried out by the former Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, the National Environment Agency and the Health Sciences Authority.

Visit SFA’s commercial food imports for import conditions on your product of interest. The responsibility to ensure that food imported into Singapore is safe and meets all local regulations lies with the local importer.


Visit labelling guidelines for food importers and manufacturers

Marketing your products and services

Market entry

Exporters may consider the following to before launching their product in Singapore:

  • Visit the market before exporting to better understand the market opportunity, supply chain and pricing.
  • Appoint a committed importer/distributor (or agent) and work towards building a long-term relationship in order to build market share. NB: It is best to work with one dedicated partner, given the small size of the market
  • Consider the use of a qualified export packer or consolidator to export, if your volumes are too small to sell directly to an overseas importer or buyer.
  • Join forces with a producers’ association or relevant industry body for collective export marketing and logistics.
  • Attend or participate in an international trade show to meet buyers. Food and Hotel Asia , held in Singapore biennially. It is the most important food show in this region.
  • Set up your own representative office in the market, to build and strengthen customer networks.

Links and industry contacts

Government resources

Singapore Food Agency (Previously known as the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore)
Health Promotion Board
Singapore Customs
Enterprise Singapore

Local supermarket chains

Cold Storage (Part of Dairy Farm International)
Giant (Part of Dairy Farm International)
Sheng Siong

Trade events

Food and Hotel Asia

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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