Food and agribusiness to Singapore
Trends and opportunities
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
functional / health food
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
labelling guidelines for food importers and manufacturers
Marketing your products and services
Exporters may consider the following to before launching their product in
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
Singapore Food Agency
(Previously known as the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of
Health Promotion Board
Local supermarket chains
Cold Storage (Part of Dairy Farm International)
Giant (Part of Dairy Farm International)
Food and Hotel Asia
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