Malaysia

Market overview

A Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), in place until 31 August, has replaced the previous Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). Under the RMCO, restrictions have been further relaxed and interstate movement is allowed. Travel to eastern Malaysia from peninsular Malaysia can also resume with approval from the authorities. However, most foreigners are still banned from entering the country, while Malaysian citizens and residents continue to be prohibited from leaving.

The Malaysian Government is very keen to re-open trade to its pre-pandemic levels. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced the easing of lockdown restrictions in the Movement Control Order. The change, now a "Conditional Movement Control Order", allows almost all economic sectors to open, with conditions.

The move came as a surprise to many, with confusion around the new rules. Public opinion on the shift is mixed, with some locals concerned the move is premature, while others have been out on the streets celebrating the end of what has been a very strict stay at home order.

According to Malaysia’s Finance Minister, Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, nearly 70% of the workforce returned to work in various sectors in line with the reopening of the economy.

Most social, education, religious and business activities are allowed to resume in stages with strict standard operating protocols in place. Close contact sports and large religious processions remain prohibited. Similarly, entertainment venues, including bars and nightclubs, will also remain closed during this period. Interstate travel restrictions have been removed in all areas not under enhanced movement control order measures.

Markets across the country are now allowed to reopen. Further details on the relaxation of restrictions, specifically pertaining to the reopening of schools and resumption of some religious activities, are expected soon.

The Government of Malaysia has developed a COVID-19 self-monitoring app for citizens (MySejahtera). This app is directly linked to the local health services and can assist Malaysians to connect to the right health services at the right time.

Further information is available in Malay on the National Security Council website and in English and Malay on the Federal Gazette website.

For more information on doing business in Malaysia, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance.

Video insights

Export support
Video
8:14
Last updated: 10 Jun 2020
COVID-19 Market Realities: exporter stories from Malaysia, 4 June

NZTE Trade Commissioner, Simon Hearsey, speaks with Inspire Group Asia CEO, James McCulloch, about doing business in Malaysia during COVID-19.

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Export support
Video
9:29
Last updated: 18 May 2020
COVID-19 Market Realities: Malaysia overview, 14 May

NZTE Trade Commissioner for Malaysia, Simon Hearsey, speaks with BDM Fizal Fauzi and Beachhead Advisor Andrew Goodwin about the situation in Malaysia.

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Export support
Video
7:16
Last updated: 14 May 2020
COVID-19 Market Realities: Malaysia Food & Beverage, 14 May

NZTE Trade Commissioner for Malaysia, Simon Hearsey, NZTE BDM, MiYee Ching, and Beachhead Advisor, Jeremy Ng, discuss Malaysia's F&B market.

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Economy and trade

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry Malaysia has released the following trade information:

  • In April 2020, Malaysia’s trade amounted to RM133.34 billion, a decrease of 16.4% compared to April 2019, due to major disruptions to the global supply chain. Lower trade was recorded particularly with Singapore, Thailand, India, the United States, Japan, Viet Nam and Saudi Arabia.

  • Exports were valued at RM64.92 billion, a contraction of 23.8% while imports decreased by 8% to RM68.42 billion.

  • The trade balance recorded a deficit of RM3.5 billion in April 2020, after 269 consecutive months of surplus on account of a higher contraction in exports compared to imports.

  • Compared to March 2020, trade and exports slipped by 9.9% and 19% respectively while imports increased by 0.9%.

  • Malaysia’s trade during the first four months of 2020 dropped by 3.5% to RM573.75 billion compared to the corresponding period of 2019. Lower trade was recorded with Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, India and Viet Nam.

  • Meanwhile, higher trade was registered with the Republic of Korea (ROK), Indonesia and the US. Exports during the period registered a decrease of 5.5% to RM303.61 billion and imports declined marginally by 1.2% to RM270.14 billion. Trade surplus was valued at RM33.47 billion, declined by 29.9% compared to the same period of 2019.

Trade with FTA Partners

  • In April 2020, trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners, which made up 71.6% of Malaysia’s total trade, recorded a decline of 9.5% y-o-y to RM95.47 billion. Exports to FTA partners was valued at RM47.29 billion, a decrease of 18.9% while imports was higher by 2.1% to RM48.18 billion.

  • Compared to the previous month, trade and exports declined by 2.9% and 14.4%, respectively while imports rose by 11.7%.

  • Trade with FTA partners for the first four months of 2020 which constituted 67.1% of Malaysia’s total trade amounted to RM385.21 billion, a decrease of 2.4% compared to the same period of 2019. Exports contracted by 4.6% to RM209.53 billion while imports increased by 0.4% to RM175.68 billion .

Import Performance

Total imports in April 2020 decreased by 8% to RM68.42 billion from April 2019. The three main categories of imports by end use which accounted for 71.7% of total imports were:

  • Intermediate goods, valued at RM28.25 billion or 41.3% share of total imports, decreased by 30.6%, buoyed by lower imports of parts and accessories of capital goods (except transport equipment) particularly electrical machinery, equipment and parts;

  • Capital goods, valued at RM14.98 billion or 21.9% of total imports, increased by 68.9%, due mainly to higher imports of capital goods (except transport equipment), particularly floating structures; and

  • Consumer goods, valued at RM5.83 billion or 8.5% of total imports, declined by 12%, attributed to lower imports of durable goods, particularly jewellery.

During January to April 2020, imports amounted to RM270.14 billion, a decrease of 1.2% from the same period in 2019. Imports of intermediate goods totalled RM144.33 billion, decreased by 2.5%, capital goods (RM32.43 billion, down 1%) and consumer goods (RM23.61 billion, up 0.1%).

Malaysian Banking BHD (Maybank), the country's biggest financial services group, has forecast the Malaysian economy to shrink 3.3% this year due to the pandemic and the lower price of crude oil.

The Mayalsian economy grew at its slowest pace in more than ten years over Q1 of 2020, but at a rate better than forecast. According to the Central Bank of Malaysia, GDP grew 0.7% year-on-year January to March, compared with 3.6% growth the previous quarter. However, analysts expect the full effects of the virus to be felt in the second quarter, as Malaysia only went into lockdown from the middle of March.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Malaysia's real gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at a rate of 9% next year.

Malaysia's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 0.5 percentage point to 2% in early May. The policy rate of 2% is the lowest since 2010 and was the third rate cut this year following cuts in January and March.

Following the MCO (movement control order), Malaysia’s gross domestic product shrank to 0.7% in the first quarter (Q1) and is expected to contract further in Q2.

In late March, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced a total allocation of MYR1.6 billion for the Malaysia Health Ministry to increase resources by purchasing equipment, including personal protection equipment, and boost capability by hiring medical experts and contract staff; particularly nurses, to handle COVID-19.

With the relaxation of movement control orders, most manufacturing operations, especially those linked to medical supplies and devices, are operating at full capacity again. However, should any other New Zealand company face this issue, they should not hesitate to contact NZTE.

Supply chain, logistics & freight

Direct commercial flight links to Malaysia have ceased until (likely) July. Some indirect Air Cargo options remain, however, New Zealand exporters must now focus freight transport on shipping options.

Clearance of ports

Port clearance is open and fully operational. As the definition of non-essential business continues to ease, additional focus has been provided by the Malaysian Government on the clearance of any container backlogs in Malaysian ports.

If issues are encountered both at port clearance or with acceptance of certification, exporters are requested to connect with NZTE for assistance.

Government support

The Prime Minister of Malaysia has announced a 'PRIHATIN Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package' worth RM250 billion. Of this, almost RM128 billion will be channelled to preserve welfare, RM100 billion to support businesses including SMEs, and RM2 billion to strengthen the economy. Meanwhile, RM20 billion has been announced in the earlier stimulus package.

The Government's immediate priority now is to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. For this, the PM has announced an allocation of RM500 million to the Ministry of Health (MOH). To further enhance the MOH's capabilities, the Government will allocate an additional RM1 billion to purchase equipment and services to contain COVID-19. This includes obtaining medical expertise from private healthcare services.

The Government will increase the special allowance for medical personnel from RM400 to RM600 per month effective 1 April 2020 until the outbreak ends. At the same time, the Government also agreed to extend a special allowance of RM200 a month to military, police, customs, civil defence and RELA (Government Volunteer) members who are directly involved in enforcing Malaysia's Movement Containment order. This allowance will also be paid beginning 1 April 2020 until the COVID-19 outbreak ends.

Locally, economists are reporting that the second stimulus package (SP2) of COVID-19 amounting to RM250 billion (17% of GDP, with 1.7% of GDP as direct fiscal injections) should support growth and provide much-needed support in areas like liquidity, consumption and employment, without putting too much strain on the fiscal deficit. This is within a context of national revenue being further impacted by other external factors. The oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia has forced the Government to lower the oil price projection to US$35–US$40 per barrel for Brent crude oil (still high against current market rate), which would translate to an oil revenue loss of between RM6.6bil and RM8.1 billion.

SMEs and micro-businesses make up two-thirds of the workforce and contribute 40% of the GDP in Malaysia. Unlike the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC) where shops and restaurants could still rely on social interaction and foot traffic for business, COVID-19 has stripped that advantage away.

The latest additional stimulus measures worth RM10 billion (announced 6 April) to soften the impact of the movement control order (MCO) on SMEs and micro businesses have been largely welcomed.

Many businesses are experiencing tight cash flow due to zero or minimal sales revenue. Demand is expected to be weak for some time due to travel aversion and social distancing. Not every small business is equipped to survive this downturn. The drop in consumer and corporate spending will intensify the adverse chain reaction that will fuel the collapse of micro businesses, especially the younger and smaller businesses due to their highly vulnerable situation.

Exports and import demand will stay weak from lockdowns. Commodity prices will be soft. Many SME businesses have been forced to close their doors, and some may not reopen. With the additional measures, plus the increasing focus on micro businesses, which make up a big share of the SMEs, the support will more likely help reduce bankruptcies and bad loans.

There could be some relief on job losses, which remain a major concern, although these are expected to vary considerably according to the age and size of the small businesses.

The Government has allocated an additional RM500 million to the Health Ministry to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Prime Minister also announced that to increase the Ministry of Health's capacity, the Government will channel an additional allocation of RM1 billion to buy equipment and services, which includes procuring specialist services from the private sector.

A Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan for June to December 2020 period will be launched by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassinby at the end of June. Officials say the plan will focus on three key objectives, namely to empower people, propel businesses, and stimulate the economy.

Travel

Direct commercial flight links between New Zealand and Malaysia have now ceased. Resumption of services is not currently scheduled, though Malaysia Airlines has indicated this is likely to be sometime in July.

Air cargo into Malaysia via additional countries remains a possibility, although more reliable shipping routes are likely to be preferred. Linking closely to third party logistic providers to connect to the most efficient supply chain options is a key action for New Zealand exporters at this time.

From 1 June, all people entering Malaysia will bear the cost of mandatory quarantine and are to sign a letter agreeing to pay before they may commence their travel. Malaysians are required to pay half the cost of quarantine services while non-citizens, including spouses and family members of Malaysian citizens, will pay the full cost.

Useful links

Advice to exporters

Air linkages via Malaysia Airlines will be reopening, if temporarily. New Zealand companies should look to take advantage of this market access opportunity.

New digital sales platforms and channels are appearing. Exporters should be in close communication with existing distributors seeking these platforms for additional distribution and listing.

Malaysia remains heavily dependent on the importation of food for the population. New Zealand is a key provider of 'fresh', 'chilled', 'organic' and 'healthy' produce into this market. These categories are selling particularly well as people seek foods with positive health connotations.

Jeremy Ng, NZTE Beachhead Advisor for Malaysia, says:

"I think for now and for the coming few months, it would not be the right time for companies to launch any new products. With new product launches, sampling programmes will be needed. I think it will take quite some time before shoppers will want to taste food sampling after this crisis subsides.

Retailers have reported a surge in demand for healthy foods. If you go to the retailers these few days, you will notice that the snack aisles are still full. Products considered impulse purchase products have not done well, and we do not expect them to do well until this COVID-19 crisis is over."

Dr. Azrin Zubir, an NZTE Beachheads Advisor from Malaysia specialising in health, says: “With a surprise new government taking over in early March and the focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand companies will need to wait to see if or when initiatives started by the previous Government under Malaysia’s health technology transformation plan, such as the EMR and Critical Care projects, will be carried forward.

General indications suggest that key projects already initiated will proceed. For now, no non-COVID-19 related health strategies and projects have been announced by the new Minister of Health."

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly overseas, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

Below is the status of major Malaysia tradeshows and events that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.

  • The 17th Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) 1 - 4 April 2020 has been postponed to 2021.

  • The 28th TCE Baby Expo has been rescheduled to 24 - 27 Sept 2020 in MITEC, Kuala Lumpur.

  • The Food & Hotel Malaysia(FHM) 2021 is scheduled for 21 - 24 Sept 2021 in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

  • The APHM International Healthcare Conference & Exhibition 2020 postponed from 2-4 June to 17-19 August 2020.

  • The Malaysia Cloud & Datacenter Convention 2020 postponed from 27 February to October 2020.

  • The 21st Malaysian International Food & Beverage Trade Fair (MIFB), 22-24 July 2020 has been postponed to 2021.

  • SEMICON Southeast Asia 2020 scheduled for August 11-13 2020 at MITEC (Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre), Kuala Lumpur is going virtual on July 20-23, 2020.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in Malaysia.

E-commerce

According to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the e-commerce growth rate will surpass the 20% growth forecast by the National e-commerce Strategic Roadmap. The initial estimate was RM170 billion; but due to swift changes in consumer behaviour brought on by movement control orders, rates have been higher - and experts predict rates to stay high after the controls end. As a result, e-commerce's contribution to Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) is also expected to rise this year with the increase of consumer confidence in digital transactions.

MyGroser (www.mygroser.com), an independent online grocery service with a growing range of 12,000 items in fresh produce (meats, seafood, vegetables), fruit and dairy, frozen food, dry food, groceries, premium products and daily essentials, saw the demand for grocery delivery grow by over 1000% during the first part of this year as well as revenue and daily number of deliveries made grow 10x during the past two months. The grocer is capital raising to expand into other cities in Malaysia in the next three years, according to an online report.

Some e-commerce sites have opened up lines in completely new territories to take advantage of the surge in food retail. Zalora, a top clothing fashion site, has launched a new category called Zmart featuring everything from homewares, groceries and healthcare supplies to a wider selection of product categories such as household items, baby supplies, pet supplies, wine and spirits as well as electronics to meet demand and utilise existing delivery networks.

Presto Mall, an online shopping platform, is expanding its needs for last-mile delivery services by engaging LamboMove as a fulfillment agent. According to this report, LamboMove has developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to determine the shortest route and the fastest time to optimise the delivery process for same day deliveries.

Lazada Malaysia has launched a fund with RM10 million to help small and medium enterprises sell products online. The initiative is targeted to help an estimated 50,000 local SMEs, especially those in the fresh food and groceries categories. SME retailers that are new, or have little experience in e-commerce can expect 100% of their costs of selling online covered, and be able to quickly diversify revenue streams beyond traditional bricks-and-mortar models on a platform where one in three Malaysians are Lazada users.

Lazada competitor, Shopee, launched the RM15 million Shopee Seller Support Package, which aids local SMEs and businesses in various sectors including retail, fresh produce, food and beverage and more by driving digitalisation of traditional businesses and bringing them online. The package supports sellers by creating sales and growth opportunities, reducing operational costs and facilitating sustainable development through funding, subsidies and education. According to Shopee, this package has attracted the participation of more than 70,000 local businesses from micro, small and medium to even large enterprises and corporations.

What this means for New Zealand exporters:

For New Zealand companies to compete at the forefront of the new business environment in Malaysia, it is advisable to build internal e-commerce readiness, to strengthen e-commerce foundations, and to leverage e-commerce knowledge.

To grow in the new environment, New Zealand companies should be prepared to think outside the box and challenge their current models in distribution and marketing.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand
myNZTE

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.