This week (November 6) Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine embarks on the second trade mission to Southeast Asia in two years.

Last year, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue led a trade mission to Singapore and Japan, with Minister of State, Martin Heydon leading the Vietnam leg.

This year, Minister Heydon leads a four-day trade mission to Malaysia and the Philippines. Both markets are important for dairy exports, while the Philippines is the largest market for Irish beef outside of Europe.

Irish pigmeat was granted access to the Malaysian market of Southeast Asia in November last year.


The Malaysian population is 33 million people who are broadly within three main ethnic groups, Malay (70%), Chinese (23%), and Indian (7%).

Malaysia is heavily dependent on imports of dairy commodities including cheese, whey, SMP and whole milk powder (WMP).

Malaysia is also a net importer of meat, importing nearly 477,000t in 2022. Halal certification is essential for meat access.

Historically, the majority of Irish food and drink exports to Malaysia have been dairy products; however, last year Ireland was granted pigmeat access.

Cuisine in Southeast Asia

Beef and poultry access applications are still pending. Total Irish food and drink exports to Malaysia last year were €66 million.

Malaysian dairy consumption

Per capita dairy consumption in Malaysia is 21kg, while the dairy retail market is valued at $1.1 billion.

In contrast to the Philippines, Malaysia has a growing domestic dairy herd of 180,000head and domestic production caters for 60% of dairy consumption needs.

New Zealand is the largest supplier of dairy to Malaysia with a 40% import market share, followed by the US at 15% and Australia at 13%.

New Zealand is the main supplier of WMP to the market. WMP is typically used to make sweetened condensed milk, which is used in teas, coffees, and bakery.

Imported SMP is reconstituted into consumer dairy products, or blended with domestically produced palm oil to create fat-filled milk powder. Ireland is the fourth largest SMP supplier to Malaysia.  

Irish dairy in Southeast Asia

Malaysia was the destination for a 2018 agri-food trade mission, where the focus was on increasing dairy exports to the region.

Exports have grown by over 19% since 2018 from €50 million to reach €60 million in 2022. Exports are dominated by SMP, at €28.3 million, whey (€12.2 million) and casein (€9.5 million).

The volume of Irish dairy exports to Malaysia fell by 30% in 2022, which can be attributed to price sensitivity due to high priced dairy commodities.

However, there were volume increases across several categories with butter exports increasing by 24% to 104t and casein volumes up 79% to 849t.

Irish cream exports also rose dramatically in volume, albeit from a very low base of just 11t in 2021, to 143t last year.

During the trade mission, on Tuesday November 7, Bord Bia will host a dairy seminar and trade networking event in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysian dairy buyers in attendance.

Pigmeat in Malaysia

As much as 70% of Malaysians are Muslim and therefore do not consume pork. However, 23% of the Malaysians are ethnically Chinese, which helps to support demand.

Per capita consumption of pork is 17.3kg/yr, according to the Malaysian ministry. Domestic pigmeat production accounts for 90% of consumption and last year pigmeat imports reached 33,500t.

Since access was granted to Irish pigmeat, Bord Bia has worked closely with Irish exporters to support them in finding customers in the market.

As of August this year, 370t of Irish pork have reached the Malaysian market. Engagement with pigmeat customers will be a strong focus of the trade mission.

The Philippines

Located in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, the Philippines is an archipelago of around 7,640 islands – about 2,000 of which are inhabited.

Halo-halo, a Philippines dessert made with sweetened condensed milk and shaved ice

The Philippines has a young, growing population of over 112 million people and the median age is just 25 (compared to 37 in Ireland).

Total Irish food and drink exports to the Philippines were €150 million in 2022. 

Beef consumption habits

In 2022, the Philippines imported a total of 182,216 metric tonnes of beef, worth 35 billion Philippine pesos (€580 million).

Filipinos consume an average of 3.4kg of beef per year and the majority of beef is purchased in supermarkets and consumed in the home.

Due to the challenging logistics of transporting meat around the archipelago, there is a preference for ambient meat products such as canned corned beef. 

In full service restaurants, beef is usually a special occasion dish. For these occasions, it’s common for the entire extended family to be invited; premium beef cuts are ordered to be cooked and consumed around a communal grill.

However, the majority of beef in foodservice is found in quick service restaurants and fast food chains.

Irish beef exports to Southeast Asia

The Philippines provides a significant volume market for Irish forequarter, manufacturing and offal beef. As such, it contributes to the overall carcass balance for beef exports.

Carcass balance refers to finding the best market for every component of the beef carcass. The Philippines market also provides a great alternative to other international markets thereby adding stability in often volatile market conditions.

Ireland is the largest European supplier of beef to the Philippines and in the top five globally.

Last year, the Philippines purchased over 18,000t of Irish beef and beef offal valued at €50.4 million.

Primary beef exports rose 3% to €44 million and beef offal was valued at €6.4 million in 2022, up from €3.3 million.

Primary Irish beef exports to the Philippines have grown from €14 million in 2018, an increase of over 200% in five years. 

Irish dairy in the Philippines 

Annual dairy consumption in the Philippines is three million tonnes with domestic dairy meeting less than 1% of dairy needs.

Per capita consumption is the second highest in Southeast Asia at 30kg (behind Singapore at 34kg). This leaves the Philippines highly reliant on dairy imports.

The US has a 32% market share of dairy imports followed closely by New Zealand at 30%.

Irish dairy exports were valued at €72.5 million last year. Key drivers of value growth were SMP, infant food, and buttermilk.

These also contributed strongly to volume growth alongside whey and butter. Exports have grown from €19 million since 2018, an increase of 283%. The volume of exports has increased 93% over five years from 2018 to 2022.  

Irish dairy exports are predominantly used as an ingredient for further processing in the foodservice and food manufacturing channels, for final products such as sweetened condensed milk.

In recent years, European and North American branded dairy products have grown presence in the market, creating a potential opportunity for a branded offering from Ireland that will be investigated on this mission.

During the trade mission, Bord Bia will host a dairy seminar in Manila with over 80 local dairy buyers due to attend. Several meetings are also scheduled with leading Philippines dairy manufacturers.

Irish pigmeat in the Philippines 

Pigmeat plays an important part in the Philippines diet and is the third most commonly enjoyed protein after seafood and poultry, with 13.3kg consumed per person annually.

The country imported over 406,000 metric tonnes of pigmeat in 2022.

Ireland exported over 14,000t of pigmeat worth €24 million to the Philippines in 2022. This is a 71.4% increase in value on 2021.

Ham and pig offal were the key drivers of growth. Exports have grown from €8 million in 2018, an increase of 205%. 

Similar to Irish beef, the majority of exports to the Philippines are destined for further processing or used as ingredients in foodservice channels.

A special pork and beef seminar and networking event will be held on the final day of the trade mission, as well as roundtable meeting with Philippines meat importers on the Wednesday.