NEW YORK: Despite economic uncertainties and an election year in the US, when buyers take a wait-and-watch attitude and are conditioned to exercise maximum restraint, Malaysia’s exports to the US surged to RM 60.79 billion, up 5.4 per cent over 2011.
The New York office of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) said imports from the US into Malaysia however declined by 11.4 per cent to RM 49.9 billion.
“Malaysia’s export growth comes at a time when economic uncertainties characterise the overall mood in the trade. Also, 2012 was an election year when importers exercised restraint in anticipation of clarity over official policies,” said Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, the New York-based Matrade Commissioner, in an interview with Bernama in his office.
The US, which continues to be Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner after China, Singapore and Japan, accounted for some 8.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total exports.
By comparison, Malaysia’s exports to the European Union dropped 13.7 per cent to RM 62.18 billion, considering that the Eurozone crisis continues to adversely affect its external trade.
But the mainstay of Malaysia’s exports to the US continues to be electronics and electrical products which accounted for 54.1 per cent of the total exports to the US “The increase in exports in 2012 was accounted by higher exports of electronic and electrical products which expanded by 7.9 per cent or RM 2.41 billion to RM 32.89 billion, mainly contributed by photosensitive semiconductor devices.
“Other products that posted export growth were optical and scientific equipment, mainly parts and accessories for oscilloscope and spectrum analysers (31.8 per cent), rubber products mainly rubber gloves (19 per cent), transport equipment particularly transport containers (30.4 per cent), refined petroleum products (161.9 per cent), as well as wood products, primarily furniture (10.8 per cent).
“Malaysia’s main imports from the US were E&E products, machinery, appliances and parts as well as chemicals and chemical products,” Sharulmiza said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is also eyeing the burgeoning US market for processed food products, as consumers are increasingly trying out Asian foods.
Malaysian food products have a high visibility on the shelves in almost every Asian ethnic supermarket, but now the strategy is to enter the mainstream market, Shahrulmiza explained.
According to Matrade data, the value of Malaysia’s processed food exports to the US was around RM662.76 million in 2012, accounting for 1.1 per cent of Malaysia’s total exports to the US.
Some of the processed food products that hold good promise in the US market are instant foods, ready-to-eat meals and beverages.
“Instant food and convenience food products will be promoted because of the demand for such products amongst the working class in the U.S.
where the consumers are more open to Asian and foreign food products than in any other region of the world,” Shahrulmiza said, pointing out that Malaysia’s ‘Carefood’ brand was quite popular amongst consumers in the US.
The company, also called Carefood, is based in Kuala Lumpur.
“We notice that Malaysia’s food exporters are now increasingly concentrating on nutritional values in keeping with the growing health consciousness amongst US consumers.
“We conducted surveys amongst importers of Asian products which revealed that there is demand for such products,” the Matrade commissioner said.
Besides collaborating with Malaysian restaurants to popularise Malaysian food, Matrade is also targeting Asian supermarkets.
“Malaysians living in the US are also interested in buying food products in the US. In 2010 Matrade launched the Malaysian Kitchen Programme and since then we have noticed greater interest amongst food distributors and consumers for Malaysian products,” Shahrulmiza maintained.
The upcoming Malaysian Winter Market on February 20 to 21 at New York’s Bryant Park affords a ‘unique opportunity’ to showcase Malaysian food products.
Matrade is putting together this unprecedented show in conjunction with restaurants in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“Some of the Malaysian delicacies offered here will be nasi lemak, fried noodles, prawn mee and beef rendang. We will also have live Malaysian cooking demonstrations by chefs of the calibre of Hasni Ghazali, Susheela Raghavan (a Malaysian who has written a book called Flavours of Malaysia, and also produces her own blend of spices under her brand Taste of Malacca), Dale Talde and Zak Pelaccio, all of whom have done excellent work in promoting Malaysian dishes in this country,” Shahrulmiza said. — Bernama