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Malaysia: Organic volumes challenged by climate

The demand for organic produce in South East Asia is rising. Especially in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, the organic market is growing in importance. However, Malaysian growers are severely affected by the tropical climate.
“Growing organic produce isn’t easy, because of the weather, which has a direct influence on the market. We’re currently selling more basic quality organic products instead of expensive exotic produce,” says Tai Seng Yee of the Malaysian company Zenxin Organic Food. His company is the market leader of organic fresh produce and mainly exports organic leafy greens and organic sweet potatoes to Singapore and Hong Kong, though the company works with all kinds of vegetables.
The overall demand is rising, but unfortunately, Zenxin Organic is limited in how it can meet this demand. Seng Yee says it isn’t easy to increase the scale of organic production, due to the tropical climate. “In Malaysia, it rains everyday since December 2016 till now, there is no dry season this year even till April 2017. Our cultivation is done in the open field and under shelter. We’re currently involved in applying technological innovations in organic farming. “We have become a leading producer and importer in Singapore and Malaysia, so we’re definitely improving our methods of growing organically.”

In order to meet the rising demand, Zenxin Organic has a partner in Thailand to import more produce. Seng Yee are working to start partnerships with growers in Indonesia and the Philippines as well. They started with contract growers in Thailand about five years ago. Unfortunately, the same problems with the local climate persist in Thailand as well.
In spite of these unfavorable weather conditions, the Malaysian organic sector is seeing more competition. “It is a strong trend,” says Seng Yee. “More and more consumers are becoming aware of the health benefits of organic produce, though there is still room for improvement. The awareness of organic is particularly strong in Malaysia and Singapore. This also goes for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The market for organic produce is smaller in Thailand, but it is improving. The only Asian countries where the market for organic is still kind of not too popular are Japan and South-Korea, maybe because their conventional produce is very good.”

Furthermore, Seng Yee shares that for the production of organic broccoli for the local market, volumes aren’t enough for the local demand. “We work with 10 growers to produce broccoli. Since that isn’t enough, we import from Australia, Spain and sometimes Italy. So, most of our organic broccoli is imported.”
The demand in Malaysia is quite strong for broccoli. Consumers are getting more aware of the health benefits, as broccoli contains high levels of anti-oxidants and organic broccoli is tastier. “The demand is stable. Conventional broccoli is mainly sourced from China, while premium broccoli is imported from Australia for the Singapore market. The price of organic broccoli from Australia has been high because of the irregular weather condition. Climate change is the biggest challenge for all the farmers across Asia Pacific region,” explains Seng Yee.
Zenxing Organic has a major edge over its competition due to the fact that the company controls the whole organic supply chain and has them certified organic under NASAA Australia organic standards. “We certify our whole production. The organic certificates that we’re carrying are equivalent to the EU Organic standards. And though we’ve been leaders for quite some time, we’ll always continue to innovate and hopefully we can export the organic produce from South East Asia to the rest of the world.”

For more information:
Tai Seng Yee
Zenxin Agri-Organic Food
Tel: 006567797839/ 67787369
Email: taisengyee@zenxin.com.my

Publication date: 4/21/2017
Author: Yzza Ibrahim
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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