Department of State Development
  • The Malaysian labour force expanded 2.1% in February 2020. 15.87 million (Feb 2020) vs 15.34 million (Jan 2020). Unemployment rate for corresponding period remained unchanged at 3.3%.
  • Malaysia locked down its borders on 18 March, restricting movement of citizens to the end of March and banning all foreign tourists and visitors.
  • The Malaysian Prime Minister announced the easing of the Movement Control Order (MCO) to a conditional MCO on 4 May, to allow most industries and economic activities to resume with standard operating procedures set by the authorities.
  • The announcement comes in light of the economic hit, incurring some RM63 billion in losses, since the MCO first started on 18 March. The Prime Minister has stated that if the partial lockdown continued for another month, losses would touch nearly RM100 billion (AUD 36.7 billion).
  • Schools, most sites for public gathering and social activities including cinemas will remain closed. Interstate travel will still be barred except for work purposes.
  • The Malaysia Australia Business Council has advised that they will be setting up a ‘Members Support Programme’. This will include a members’ promotional section on the MABC website and informing members and guests regarding the services and goods that members are still providing during the MCO.
  • International mail and parcel services to most countries, including to Australia, have been temporarily suspended from 30 March until further notice. This is due to the broad cancellation of flights internationally. Express mail services are still available to Australia.
  • Freight matters for exporters:
    • Air freight prices have soared due to airlines operating at reduced capacity and space is limited, with many exporters facing delays and postponement in shipment.
    • The Australian Government International Freight Assistance Mechanism does not include Malaysia, with Singapore being the nearest port. Many importers are stopping air shipments while waiting for better prices, while others are looking at sea freight for less perishable products such as apples and pears.
    • Under the MCO, the Ministry of Transport has confirmed the following:
      • Processing of shipment of products to/from overseas market allowed as logistics services in Malaysia are in operation as usual during the MCO period.
      • Oil and gas, petrochemicals, chemical and chemical products as well as electrical and electronics products have been included in the list of products exempted from MCO.
      • All ports in Malaysia will remain in operation (except for cruise ship ports), although delays in clearing cargo from seaports are apparent. The Ministry of Transport has given special exemptions to port authorities to clear non-essential goods in particularly congested ports (Klang, Penang and Johor).
      • Operation of cargo flights, be it to leave or enter the country, are allowed.
      • Only lorries carrying essential items and foodstuff are allowed to operate.
    • The Malaysia Dry Foodstuff Importers and Exporters Association (MDFIEA) chairman has said that the pandemic is starting to cause disruption in major food supply countries such as China, India, Pakistan and Thailand which Malaysia is heavily reliant on. This could result in a situation where those countries inevitably restrict food exports.
  • Consumer Patterns: Horticulture produce is in high demand, but with concerns for supply of Australian carrots and washed potatoes. Demand for premium beef is subdued with the hospitality sector operating at a bare minimum and a stable supply of local beef and current stocks satisfying local demand. Dairy demand remains robust with adequate supplies save for logistical issues. 
  • For premium groceries, there doesn’t appear to be major issues for availability of shelf stable products.
  • High demand exists for vitamins, antibacterial soaps, sanitisers/disinfectants, face masks, thermometers and gloves.
  • In a newly released report by Retail Group Malaysia (RGM), retailers are projected to bring in RM10.9 billion (AUD $3.93 billion) in sales revenue with a 5.5% contraction for the overall 2020 calendar year. In the April-June quarter alone, sales are expected to contract by 9.3%.
  • The Ministry of Industry and International Trade has loosened restrictions by allowing hardware shops, electrical and electronics shops (excluding telecommunications equipment as well as ICT equipment shops) and laundry shops (full service) to operate under the MCO Phase 3.
  • On 27 March the Government announced a RM250 billion (nearly $100 billion AUD) stimulus package. Highlights include low and middle income worker cash handouts, support for businesses to maintain employees, and loan deferrals and guarantees for larger corporates (following on from earlier deferrals for SMEs and individuals).
  • On 6 April 2020 the Malaysian Prime Minister unveiled a RM10 billion stimulus package for SMEs, additional to the RM250 billion announced on 27 March.