USA Rice Identifies Market Challenges in Malaysia

Mar 12, 2015
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA -- Earlier this week, USA Rice visited Malaysia as part of a USDA-sponsored Agribusiness Trade Mission to Malaysia and the Philippines led by Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, and found a complicated rice import scheme that does present some opportunities.  
"Imports of rice in Malaysia are controlled by BERNAS, a private company that has been granted an import monopoly for all rice," explained USA Rice's Vice President of International Promotion Jim Guinn who is on the trip.  "Private companies can, and do, approach BERNAS with an order for rice, where they can be very specific as to the supplier of the rice.  BERNAS will then import the rice for the customer, generally with a mark-up of at least 35 percent.  BERNAS in effect is an implementer of governmental policy which is to maintain the price of imports above the local price."
Guinn said there was an interest expressed in Southern medium grain rice and several trade contacts requested samples for their analysis as to market acceptability.
The growing global popularity of sushi is evident in Malaysia as well, and demand for sushi rice is on the rise.  One Japanese brand containing rice from California was seen in the local retail market.
Malaysia is a party to the on-going Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and many in the trade expect there may have to be changes to the rice import regime in future years.
Guinn added that while immediate opportunities for U.S.-grown rice may be limited, there is good market acceptance of U.S. rice, and with market access changes in the offing, the future opportunities are somewhat brighter.
Contact:  Deborah Willenborg (703) 236-1444