Import & Export

Step-by-Step Guide: Importing Food Products To Sell In Malaysia

If you are looking to import food to Malaysia but are unsure of the relevant regulations and steps required, check out our detailed step-by-step guide that can help you find all the information you need right here. In this guide, we share the steps you should take to:

  • Comply with the Food Safety and Quality Division (FSQ) of the Ministry of Health (MOH)
  • Declare via Food Safety Information System of Malaysia (FoSim) and Dagang
  • Navigate the Royal Malaysian Customs Department

TL:DR bonus - scroll to the end of this article to download a summarised step-by-step flowchart as your cheatsheet!

Step 1: Register your company and check if you need an import licence

To start importing food into Malaysia for sale, you must first have a legal entity/company that is registered with the Registrar of Companies of Malaysia. Then comes the big question: what products and ingredients used in those products are you importing? It is critical to confirm that your products are compliant and contain permitted ingredients before starting the import process.

Tip: It is highly recommended to appoint a forwarding agent to minimise delays and complications. The agent would have the relevant expertise and contacts to support you throughout the process, including advising you on what certifications and documentations are required.

In general, the importation of food under the control of the Food Act 1983 and its regulations is not subject to an import permit. Approval will be authorised at the entry point based on inspection upon arrival of goods and will be released if found to be compliant.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Review the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985 for all relevant information pertinent to the type of products you plan to import to determine if an import licence is required. This is summarised in a food import matrix which can be found on the FSQ’s website.

  • Check if additional certification or licence from other government agencies such as the Department Of Veterinary Services Malaysia (DVS) and Department Of Agriculture (DOA) is required to import specific food items to Malaysia.
    • Some of these include poultry, dairy, seafood, flour, peanut butter and honey.
    • All packed / processed food & beverages will require Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (MAQIS) clearance.

  • To get full access to the Malaysian market, halal certification is strongly recommended for all imported food and beverage products.

unsplash photo - cargo
Photo by Andy Li on Unsplash

Step 2: Complete checks on labelling requirements

A quintessential part of your product packaging is product labelling. Consider what information will be useful and valuable to your end customer. The labels of food products sold in Malaysia must comply with the Food Act 1983 and the Food Regulations 1985. It is mandatory that labels are in Malay or English, and may include a translation thereof in any other language. Here’s what you should be including:

    1. Name and description of food
    2. List of ingredients in decreasing order of weight composition
    3. Statement about food additives, if any
    4. Net weight or volume of food in the package
    5. Name and address of overseas manufacturer, local importer, and country of origin
    6. Expiry / Best before date (mandatory for specific food items, but in any case, this is always good to have)
    7. Suggested serving size and nutritional information

If you would like to take an additional step to ensure that your labels are fully compliant, you may also consider requesting for Food Labeling Advisory and Labeling Screening Services at a fee. The review will provide in detail whether your label is compliant, and if there are any labelling errors. Starting 15 March 2021, all applications can be submitted online via the FoSIM platform.

unsplash photo - nutritional label
Step 3: Declare your food importation and prepare for import

Once you have obtained the necessary licence and certification, your next step is to declare your food importation to the Royal Malaysian Customs Department via the Malaysia Customs Information System (SMK).

If you have appointed a forwarding agent, this step would be facilitated by them.

a) Register on e-dagang

As an importer, register your company and bank details on e-dagang - an online portal that facilitates electronic services for all trade related activities such as duty payments and document transfers. 

b) Apply for e-permit

After which, proceed to apply for an e-permit under MAQIS for the products you are importing. Note that each e-permit is valid for 3 months, you will need to re-apply for shipments after the validity. The e-permit has to be approved prior to shipping your goods from the country of origin.

c) Notify Customs on incoming shipment

Upon approval of the e-permit and exportation of your goods from the country of origin, notify Customs on your incoming shipment. Use the FoSIM platform to fill in the product details as it is interfaced with the SMK, allowing for the information to be transferred between the two systems.

d) Prepare documents for clearance

Lastly, prepare the necessary documents required for importing clearance. These include:
    1. Invoice
    2. Packing list
    3. Delivery order
    4. Insurance certificate (if insured)
    5. Bill of lading/airway bill
    6. Letter of credit (if used)
    7. Additional permits or certification (product specific)
    8. Ocean or Air freight charges (if applicable)
    9. Customs Form No. 1
    10. Any other related documents (as advised by forwarding agent)

Tip: If your supplier is from the ASEAN region, you may apply for a duty exemption certificate as part of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). You will need a AFTA Certificate of Origin included in your declaration. This can also be done by your appointed forwarding agent.

Do note that declaration must be done when the goods arrives at the Malaysian border, so it is important to ensure this step is completed in advance.

unsplash photo - warehouse

(Photo by Elevate on Unsplash)

Step 4: Get ready for inspection by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department

Inspection of food will be carried out by MOH officers at the entry point. Food samples may be taken for laboratory analysis and lab charges may be incurred. As mentioned earlier, additional documentation may be required depending on the type of food you are importing so it is wise to have them ready. Other government agencies may also conduct inspections where necessary.

If your goods require further inspection and are sent for sampling, your entire shipment will be stored at the Port’s warehouse until the lab report is out.

Once your products are found to be compliant, approval by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department will be granted and your goods will be released for entry.

You’re ready to import food into Malaysia!

Now that you have the fundamental information you need to import food into Malaysia, all that’s left to do is to start selling!

If you’re looking for pre-imported, ready-to-sell products, you don’t have to look far. Check out Trustana Wholesale, an online B2B wholesale platform for sourcing high quality food products from emerging Asian brands. Handpicked from over 300+ products, we offer a curated selection of only the bestsellers, with local stocks available at our warehouse in Malaysia.



Cheatsheet - importing food products into Malaysia
Tip: right-click to save this image to your folder for easier reference

MY import guide flowchart - infographic-1


Get notified on new insights

Subscribe to our blog where we share helpful content & updates on product information management (PIM), business productivity tips, e-commerce trends and more.