As Singapore is almost entirely dependent on imported foods, it is not surprising that the total value of imported consumer oriented foods exceeded US$6.1 billion in CY2011.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number:
2012 Exporter Guide
The Singapore economy grew by a more modest rate of 4.9 percent in 2011 due to an overall slowdown in the major drivers
of the economy. One major sector, electronics manufacturing experienced a contraction due to a reduction in global demand
in calendar year 2011. All other economic sectors including wholesale and retail trade, transport & storage and business
services experienced a significant reduction in growth rates.
Section I. MARKET OVERVIEW
Singapore is an independent republic with a land area of 270 square miles and with a population of 5.18 million in a highly
urbanized island. Singapore is one of the world’s most open market economies and is highly dependent on international
trade. The volume of its external trade is about three and a half times its annual Gross Domestic Product. As Singapore has
practically no agricultural production on a commercial basis, it is totally dependent on imported foods from a large number
of countries worldwide.
The Singapore economy grew by a slower rate of 4.9 percent in calendar year 2011 compared to 14.8 percent growth in
2010. The manufacturing sector experienced a slowdown in its annual growth rate to 7.6% due to lower world demand for
electronic products. Other sectors such as Wholesale and Retail trade, Transport & Storage, Information and
Communication, Business Services all experienced similar reduced growth rates in 2011.
Singapore’s total external trade increased by 8 percent from US$717 billion in 2010 to US$774 billion in 2011. In the same
calendar year, exports increased by 7.5 % to US$ 409 billion while imports increased by 0.7% to US$365 billion.
As a reflection of higher commodity prices and substantial increase in trade volumes with neighboring countries like
Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, China and Thailand, Singapore’s global imports of agricultural, fish and forestry products
jumped by 24 percent to US$12.1 billion in 2011.
Over the shorter term horizon, the Singapore economy is anticipated to experience even lower growth performance for
calendar year 2012. The Singapore government has provided preliminary forecasts that the Singapore economy will grow at
a lower rate of 2-3 per cent for the entire year of 2012.
With one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia, Singapore is the most developed economy within the ASEAN region.
The fact that Singapore strategically lies on the cross-roads of major air and sea routes within the Asia Pacific region
enhances its traditional role as a major transshipment center for much of the Southeast Asian region and the Indian
subcontinent. The above factors also contribute to Singapore's position as a regional food showcase and headquarters for
international food and agricultural related companies.
The Market for Consumer Oriented Foods
As Singapore is almost entirely dependent on imported foods, it is not surprising that the total value of imported consumer
oriented foods exceeded US$6.1 billion in CY2011. An additional US$1.1 billion of fish and seafood products were
imported in CY 2011.
Not all the imported foods are consumed locally. It is estimated that routinely, about 75% of food imports are re-exported
mostly to neighboring countries. Major product categories include dairy products, frozen poultry and poultry parts, fresh
fruit and vegetables, red meats, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snack foods and other consumer-oriented products.
Growth rate for the consumer oriented foods category averaged about 20 percent per annum over the calendar period 2009-
2011. The U.S. market share of the consumer oriented foods category in the 2009-2011 period averaged 8-9 percent per
Demography and Socio-economic impact
Like most developed and highly urbanized economies, Singapore’s indigenous population growth rates have been falling
rapidly in the last decade as a result of the decreasing number of births by Singapore citizens. However, due to the growing
influx in the number of foreigners, the number of Singapore residents increased at the annual rate of 2.1 percent in 2011.
This factor alone augmented the slow natural growth (estimated at less than one percent per annum) in the number of
Singapore citizens. The total population of 5.18 million comprised of 3.79 million citizens and permanent residents and just
over 1.39 million foreign workers (and their dependents) on employment passes, work permits or long term social visit
The proportion of elderly residents has increased rapidly over the last ten years. Residents aged 65 years and above
comprised about 9 percent of Singapore’s resident population. This proportion is expected to increase to over 20 percent by
2050. On the flipside, the youth population (aged 14 years and below) as a percentage of the population declined from 23
percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2011. On the positive side, the mean years of schooling among resident non students aged
25-39 is 10.2 years. The literacy rate is 91 percent. Sixty six percent of the resident non student population aged 25 years
and older possesses Secondary or Higher Qualification. The number of singles has also risen in the country with the fall in
the number of persons getting married over the last ten years. The age at which both grooms and brides get married has also
Summary of socio-economic impact of the changing demographic structure.
1) Slower growth rates in domestic demand.
2) Growing personal disposal income due to better-educated workforce.
3) Smaller household sizes due to falling marriage and birth rates.
4) Demand for food products for the mature age groups growing.
5) Growth and diversity in consumer tastes with the greater increase in the number of highly educated and more traveled
Singaporeans. The rising numbers of visitor arrivals and foreign workers in the country have also contributed to the wider
variety of consumer tastes.
6) With the rise in the number of working women and newly arrived single executives, there is a corresponding growth in
demand for convenience foods and ready to cook prepared meals.
Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Suppliers
Fast growing incomes and highly educated High costs of entry into major
population supermarket chains
Increasing preference for higher quality products Lower prices of competing products
from other countries
Proliferation of western family-style restaurants and Inadequate knowledge on use of U.S.
fast food chains products
High promotional and advertising costs
Large numbers of resident expatriate population for introducing new products
familiar with western type foods
SECTION II. EXPORTER BUSINESS TIPS
Local Business Practices and Custom
In the arena of international trade, Singapore business practices tend to follow those in the more developed and highly
urbanized economies. The country’s laws are patterned after the British legal system. There is considerable reliance on
international trading practices and contracts. Letters of credit are normally used for first time transactions and only after a
long history of business relationship is established, the terms of payment may be mutually adjusted to an open trading
account with payment terms of up to two months. It is not uncommon for buyers to request for samples from first time
suppliers. In some cases, U.S. exporters may request that buyers pay for airfreight charges and handling costs of samples if
they become prohibitive.
U.S. exporters who are exporting for the first time to the Singapore market would be advised to consider making use of local
distributors or at least a local representative to help them guide through the requirements of the Singapore Food regulations
and local trading practices.
However, financial and credit arrangements in the domestic economy are very different. With few exceptions, supermarket
chains, restaurants and other retail customers expect suppliers to provide credit terms of up to ninety days. There is also an
implicit understanding to accept the return of damaged and unsold goods. On the other hand, some small retailers like Mom
and Pop stores pay cash on delivery, as their order sizes are very small. Hence, if U.S. exporters decide to carry out their own
local distribution, they would have to expect to meet the usual credit terms demanded by local supermarket chains.
General Consumer Tastes and Preferences
With rising consumer incomes, Singaporeans are prepared to pay for higher quality food products or products that will
provide savings in labor and time. Hence, on the supermarket shelves we tend to see an increasing number of prepared and
convenience foods. Diced vegetables and seasoned portion-control meats and poultry are in increasing demand as both
As almost all Singapore households are of Asian origin, imported foods that are to be used in local cooking have to be able to
lend themselves to Asian cuisines. Asian dishes tend to be stir fried, prepared in curries or marinated in chili sauces.
Food Standards and Regulations
Singapore food laws are delineated in the Food Act and all packaged foods sold in retail outlets have to comply with the
allowable ingredients and preservatives listed in the abovementioned Act (see the latest FAIRS Report in the USDA website,
Singapore has a very open import regime and all foods, with the exception of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products are
imported duty free. There are practically no non-tariff restrictions since there is very little local production and the current
government policy is to source food products from all over the world. Customs clearance of imported food products is
carried out electronically and the process is completed in less than 48 hours.
Import and Inspection Procedures
Export health certification is required for the import of meat, poultry products and shellfish products. In most import cases,
random inspection and laboratory analysis of meat and poultry products are carried out.
SECTION III. MARKET SECTOR STRUCTURE AND TRENDS
Consumer-oriented Foods and Beverages & Edible Fishery Products
Singapore, which has the second highest per capita income in Asia, is one of the most open economies in the world with no
tariffs on all food products except on alcoholic beverages. As a result, a wide range of food products from all over the world
can be found on supermarket shelves in this compact island nation of 5.18 million people.
The major suppliers of fresh temperate climatic fruit to Singapore are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, European
Union, China, South Africa, Argentina and Chile. Suppliers of tropical fruit are neighboring countries of Malaysia,
Indonesia and Thailand. Singapore households buy mostly fresh leafy green vegetables from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand
and China. On the other hand, most of the imported temperate vegetables originating from Australia, New Zealand, European
Union and the United States are supplied to restaurants and larger supermarket stores.
Singapore imports all the meats and poultry it consumes from all over the world. Poultry and pork are the main meat items
consumed in Singapore. Freshly slaughtered chicken is obtained mostly by importing live poultry from Malaysia for
slaughter in local abattoirs. About half of the chicken requirements are fulfilled through the imports of frozen chicken and
chicken parts from Brazil, United States, China and the European Union.
Since April 1999, when all local pig farms ceased production, the only source of imported live pigs (about 250,000 head
annually) for slaughter comes from Indonesia. Most of Singapore’s pork requirements are fulfilled through the import of
chilled pork from Australia and frozen pork from European Union and the United States. Beef, while not as widely
consumed as chicken, is sold principally in the supermarkets. Major suppliers of beef include Australia, New Zealand,
Argentina and China. The United States is allowed to supply only boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months of age
because of BSE concerns.
In the seafood category, Singaporeans consume mostly fresh and frozen finfish caught and sold by neighboring countries, i.e.
Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma. Other major suppliers include Taiwan and Japan, India, Australia, Vietnam and China. In
2011, a total value of US$1.1 billion of seafood was imported from worldwide sources.
Singaporeans are very fond of fresh seafood; especially fin fish, crabs, lobsters and clams. While most of the finfish are
purchased in the wet markets for home consumption, Singapore consumers generally go to restaurants for the consumption
of crabs and lobsters.
Food Retail Sector
It is estimated that about 60 percent of the food retail sales of US$4.84 billion take place in supermarkets, hyper marts and
modern mini marts, while the rest are sold in convenience shops, traditional provision stores (Mom & Pop stores), petrol
stations and wet market stalls. Traditionally Singaporeans shop for their fresh produce, meats and fish in wet market stalls.
Over the last decade however, more and more household are turning to supermarkets for their fresh produce, meats and fish
requirements. Generally, importers who represent foreign brands will be responsible for the market development of the
brands, advertising and promotion and increasing distribution reach to all retailers.
However, in recent years, some of the large supermarket chains and several up market retailers import western-type products
directly for their own outlets. Products directly imported would include frozen prepared meals, juices, jams, confectionery,
biscuits, salad dressings, pre-packed deli meats and fresh temperate fruit. Products procured from local importers would
include products from the Asian region, dry groceries, tropical fruit, frozen chicken and chicken parts, frozen beef, local
sauces and ethnic foods.
Two major supermarket chains dominate the Singapore retail industry, Dairy Farm and NTUC Fairprice supermarket chains.
The former targets principally the middle and higher income groups while the latter caters to the mass-market group.
The largest supermarket chain in terms of number of supermarket retail stores is the Dairy Farm Group with 113 supermarket
stores, comprising of 53 Cold Storage supermarket retail stores( including 6 premier Market Place stores and one premier
store called 360 ), 60 Shop & Save Stores,. In addition, the group operates 8 Giant Hyper mart stores. A large percentage of
products on their shelves comprised mostly western-type products procured from E.U., Australia, New Zealand and the
United States. Eight of their outlets are located in upper middle-income residential areas and customers to these outlets are
principally expatriates and upper middle-income residents. In addition, the Dairy Farm Group operates the 7-Eleven
Convenience Chain of 530 stores and 128 Guardian Pharmacy outlets
The NTUC Fairprice supermarket chain which is the second largest supermarket chain in terms of number of supermarket
outlets, has 90 Fairprice supermarkets, 9 Fairprice Finest stores. In addition, it operates 5 Fairprice Hyper marts. In addition,
the group has 120 Cheers Convenience Stores and 20 Fairprice Convenience Stores some of which are located in Esso-Mobil
Stations. NTUC Fairprice’s target audience is principally the middle and lower income groups. Competitive pricing is one of
the main factors determining whether a new product should be procured for the Fairprice stores. The Fairprice chain is the
most extensive in terms of consumer reach, geographically and across all income segments. Fair price stores are located in
almost every large residential population concentration. Importers who require their products to be distributed island-wide
and with the focus on the mass market prefer to work with NTUC Fairprice.
NTUC Fairprice supermarket chain procures most of their food products from local importers. However, in recent years,
NTUC Fairprice has embarked on extensive house branding of basic essentials like rice, bread, cooking oil, toilet paper, box
tissue, and sugar, dish washing liquid and canned fruit.
Besides Cold Storage and NTUC Fairprice supermarkets, there are several independently managed supermarkets like Isetan,
Meidi-Ya, Mustafa’s, Prime Supermarket, and Sheng Siong. The most recently established supermarket chain, Sheng Siong,
which has 25 small and medium sized stores and Prime Supermarket which has 17 outlets are family owned business entities
which originated from small single grocery outlets to their current sizes today. Both Sheng Siong and Prime are very price
competitive as they procure most of their products from China and other neighboring low cost Asian supplier countries.
Customers of both supermarket chains come mostly from the lower middle-income groups. The rest of the above mentioned
supermarkets are independently operated supermarket stores with only one outlet each. Isetan and Meidi-Ya target
principally the upper middle-income groups and the Japanese community in Singapore.
Outside the supermarket category, there are more than 23,000 mini-marts, convenience stores and traditional provision shops
located in all residential housing estates all over the island. As these shops tend to be very small and, in most cases, no more
than 600 square feet in retailing area, products tend to be limited to the very basic household items and to a small number of
confectionery items and snack foods. Few of the shops in this category do not sell frozen meats and prepared meals nor is
fresh produce retailed in this category.
Food Service Sector
It is estimated that Singaporeans spend about US$5 billion annually eating out. Restaurants as a group account for 37
percent, while fast food outlets account for 13 percent of the total revenue in the food & beverage services industry. Food
caterers take up a 12 percent share of the food and beverage industry. The Others Category consisting of cafes, coffee
houses, food courts, coffee shops and eating houses take up 38 percent of the total. Since eating out in the numerous cooked
food stalls located round every corner of major housing residential estates is relatively inexpensive, most Singaporeans eat
out at least once a day. As most households have working wives, Singapore families find it more convenient and, in most
cases, less expensive to eat out. It is not uncommon each evening to see families walk to the nearest neighborhood cooked-
food stall to have their dinner.
According to government statistics, there are more than 5,500 cooked food stalls in the whole island. Besides these cooked-
food stalls, fast food chains like McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Pizza Hut are located in large shopping
complexes all over the island.
The food service industry continued to show improvement in 2011. Restaurant sales reported an increase of 7 percent for
2011 due to the greater influx of tourists and business arrivals to the republic nation. It is reported that the food service
industry is reverting back to better quality but higher priced foods as customers resume their original preference for quality
Food service companies in Singapore are widening their distribution network to other countries in the Asian region to
achieve economies of scale in operation. As individual restaurant requirements are small, Singapore food service companies
provide an alternative supply chain to customers who have small but frequent procurement needs for U.S. or western-type
It is thus not uncommon to see a number of well-known U.S. brands being transshipped or distributed from Singapore.
Traders here are able to provide credit terms to their counterparts in the region or to carry out specific handling, packaging or
documentation requirements. Generally products which have a longer shelf life and which do not need refrigeration are more
Meat and poultry products, which require halal certification for Muslim consumers in the region, are generally shipped direct
to the country of destination. Again, some Singapore traders may be involved in the ordering process as well as in the
provision of short-term credit to the local importer in the destination country.
Food Processing Sector
Singapore’s food processing sector is very limited and the major food manufacturers are those in beer, non-alcoholic
beverages, snack foods, fish processing and ethnic food activities. As Singapore has no crop or livestock production,
practically all food ingredients are imported from a wide range of countries worldwide.
According to the Singapore government statistics, there are more than 300 companies making up Singapore’s food
processing sector most of which are small-scale operations with output barely sufficient for the local market. These firms
manufacture food products ranging from beverages and snack foods to dairy and confectionery goods. With the exception of
the beer and soft drinks plants, the scale of production tends to be small and the number of employees for each food-
manufacturing establishment tends to be less than 100 each.
The total output of the locally manufactured food, beverage and tobacco sector was valued at around US$6.6 billion in 2011,
out of which it was estimated that over half was re-exported. Products, which are exported, include beer, soft drinks, edible
oils, chocolates, processed seafood, milk powder, condensed milk, sauces and spices.
The source of competition varies depending on the nature of the product manufactured. For example, Australia supplies
most of the milk products and dairy ingredients while China supplies most of the corn and soybean products. Malaysia
supplied nearly 20 percent of the food ingredient market and is the major supplier of live animals for slaughter, edible oils,
tropical fruit and vegetables. The U.S. has significant market share in juices, juice concentrates, frozen poultry parts, fresh
temperate fruit, nuts, flavorings, spices and leaf tobacco.
SECTION IV. BEST HIGH –VALUE PRODUCT PROSPECTS
Product 2011 2009- Key Constraints over Market Attractiveness for
Category Total 2011 Ave Market Development USA
Intense Competition Availability of wide variety
Snack 341 18 from lower cost suppliers of flavors. Quality of U.S.
Foods from neighboring ASEAN products and packaging.
region, China, EU and
Lower priced fruit & Quality and instant brand
Fruits & vegetables juices from recognition of leading U.S.
Vegetable 61 12 Australia, New Zealand brands
Juices & E.U.
Intense competition U.S. has reputation of
Fresh Fruit 413 15 from China, South being a supplier of quality
Africa, Australia and fresh fruits
Competition from low Quality of products from
Tree Nuts 159 44 priced peanuts from U.S. are consistently
China and pistachios maintained
Strong competition from U.S. has a reputation for
Fresh China, Indonesia , quality products and
Vegetables 366 18 Thailand, Australia, New instant brand recognition
Zealand and EU
The market for pet foods U.S. brands have a high
Pet Foods 26 12 is keenly contested. brand recognition and
Australian brands are there is a natural
well established and reluctance to carry out
have a closely brand switching for
geographical advantage marginal price differences
SECTION V. KEY CONTACTS AND FURTHER INFORMATION
U.S. Department of Agriculture
27 Napier Road
Tel: (65) 6476-9120
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore
Ministry of National Development
5 Maxwell Road
#03-00 Tower Block
Tel: (65) 6222-1211
Fax: (65) 6220-6068
International Enterprise Singapore
230 Victoria Street, Level 10
Bugis Junction Office Tower
Tel: (65) 6337-6628
Fax: (65) 6337-6898
Singapore Business Federation
10 Hoe Chiang Road
#22-01 Keppel Tower
Tel: (65) 6827-6828
Fax: (65) 6827-6807
American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
1, Scotts Road
#23-04, Shaw Centre
Tel: (65) 6235-0077
Singapore Retailers Association
371 Beach Road
APPENDIX I. STATISTICS
A. Key Trade & Demographic Information
Agricultural Imports From All Countries ($Mil) /U.S. Market Share (%) 12120 7%
Consumer Food Imports From All Countries ($Mil) /U.S. Market Share (%) 6086 10%
Edible Fishery Imports From All Countries ($Mil) /U.S. Market Share (%) 1093 2%
Total Population (Millions) /Annual Growth Rate (%) 5.18 1.8
Urban Population (Millions) / Annual Growth Rate (%) NA. N.A.
Number of Major Metropolitan Areas 1
Size of the Middle Class (Millions) /Growth Rate (%) N.A. N.A.
Per Capita Gross Domestic Product (U.S. Dollars) / Increase over previous year 50,123 2
Unemployment Rate (%) 2.2
Per Household Food Expenditure (U.S. Dollars) Per Annum 8352
Exchange Rate in 2010 (US$1 = S$1.2579)
TABLE B. CONSUMER FOOD & EDIBLE FISHERY PRODUCTS IMPORTS
Imports from U.S. Market
Singapore Imports the World Share (%)
(In Millions of Dollars) Imports from U.S.
2009 2010 2011 2009 20010 2011 2009 2010 2011
CONSUMER-ORIENTED AG TOTAL 4072 4964 6086 347 452 587 9 9 9
Snack Foods (Excluding Nuts) 243 287 341 26 34 32 11 12 8
Breakfast Cereals, Pancake Mix 26 28 32 5 7 8 19 25 25
Red Meats, Fresh/Chilled/Frozen 258 435 503 19 34 41 7 8 8
Red Meats, Prepared & Preserved 117 137 166 12 14 18 10 10 10
Poultry Meat 178 215 270 32 42 64 18 20 23
Dairy Products (Excluding Cheese) 558 796 976 16 30 60 3 4 6
Cheese 54 64 78 3 4 7 6 6 8
Eggs & Products 94 106 127 1 1 2 1 1 2
Fresh Fruit 313 360 413 59 71 83 19 20 20
Fresh Vegetables 269 327 366 13 16 16 5 5 4
Processed Fruit & Vegetable 224 270 311 42 51 60 19 19 19
Fruit & Vegetable Juice 48 53 61 12 11 12 25 21 20
Tree Nuts 78 93 159 7 10 12 9 11 8
Wine & Beer 384 478 615 7 9 12 2 2 2
Nursery Products & Cut Flowers 63 77 93 1 1 2 2 1 2
Pet Foods (dogs & Cat Food) 21 24 26 8 9 8 38 38 31
Other Consumer-Oriented Products 1045 1214 1548 109 132 152 10 11 10
FISH & SEAFOOD PRODUCTS 767 909 1094 13 21 27 2 2 2
Salmon 30 45 50 0 0 0 0 0 0
Surimi 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Crustaceans 225 269 330 4 7 11 2 3 3
Ground fish & Flatfish 36 32 34 0 1 0 0 3 0
Molluscs 80 95 120 3 5 5 4 5 4
Other Fishery Products 395 468 560 4 8 11 1 2 2
AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS TOTAL 6589 8244 10368 506 594 704 8 7 7
AGRICULTURAL, FISH & FORESTRY TOTAL 7810 9717 12121 534 639 745 7 7 6
TABLE C. TOP 15 SUPPLIERS OF CONSUMER FOODS & EDIBLE FISHERY PRODUCTS
Consumer Oriented Agricultural Imports (In US$ Million)
Rank Pa lars rtner ited States Dol Countr Uny
2009 2010 2011
1 Malaysia 723 880 997
2 Australia 477 557 644
3 United States 374 478 587
4 China 357 427 470
5 France 264 350 464
6 New Zealand 255 382 441
7 Indonesia 186 221 322
8 Brazil 268 295 319
9 Thailand 235 245 286
10 Netherlands 96 119 169
11 Madagascar 33 13 112
12 India 58 73 105
13 Japan 75 94 101
14 Germany 63 81 101
15 Italy 52 65 85
Others 547 647 886
TOTAL 4,072 4,964 6086
Imports of Fish & Seafood Products (in US$ Million)
Rank Partner Country
2009 2010 2011
1 Indonesia 113 113 134
2 Malaysia 116 130 133
3 Vietnam 60 76 92
4 China 46 55 82
5 Thailand 56 61 69
6 Australia 41 53 65
7 Norway 31 46 52
8 Japan 42 52 51
9 Taiwan 48 52 44
10 India 27 32 42
11 Chile 16 19 31
12 Uruguay 8 10 30
13 Spain 11 14 30
14 United States 13 21 27
15 New Zealand 15 25 23
Others 124 98 188
TOTAL 767 909 1093
END OF REPORT