JOHOR will continue to pave the way for local small and medium enterprises (SME) to explore new markets in Singapore and China this year.
Johor unity, trade and consumer affairs committee chairman Dr Chong Fat Full said SMEs needed assistance to reach bigger markets, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which limited their movements and opportunities.
“The state government just signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the local government of Puyang city in China, so we expect to see more friendly talks and exchange of business opportunities in the future.
“The prefecture-level city, located in Henan province, has a population three times of Malaysia, so we can imagine the boon it will be to our SMEs.
“It is set to become a new market for our local SMEs to explore and vice versa,” he said after chairing the Malaysia (Johor)-China-Singapore International Trade Video Conference in Kota Iskandar, Iskandar Puteri in Johor Baru.
Chong said the state recorded a total trade value of RM351.4bil in 2020 out of the country’s overall value of RM1,777.2bil.
“The top three export destinations for Johor was Singapore worth RM53bil, which was 26.8% of the total value, followed by China at RM23bil (11.3%) and the US with RM20bil (20%).
“China was the main import source for Johor at RM30bil (19.4%) then Singapore RM24bil (15.7%) and Indonesia at third place with RM10bil accounting for 6.6%.
“Singapore’s monthly import from Malaysia for food alone amounted to RM40mil in 2020,” he said, adding that the figures showed that Malaysia, particularly Johor, was a conducive venue for grooming SMEs.
This is due to the state’s geographical location with Singapore in the south and Indonesia to the west; and the existing infrastructure such as the two main ports in Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas and other smaller ports, including a barter trade port in Batu Pahat.
In 2020, a total of 613 projects were approved with investments of RM3.7bil, where foreign participation made up the bulk at 79.7% of investments with most of them concentrated in wholesale and retail trade, said Chong.
“Distributive trade encompasses wholesale and retail trade, hypermarkets and supermarkets, department stores, direct selling and franchising, which include fruits like durian and mango, as well as petroleum-based products like soap and shampoo that can be found at hypermarkets.
“The approved projects will generate more than 18,000 job opportunities, making it the largest employer within the services sector,” he said.
During the conference, which Chong called a “warm-up event” for more future talks, he highlighted the vast investment opportunities in the northern part of Johor, especially in Tangkak and Segamat where large industrial land banks are available at reasonable cost.
He added that the state would organise more conferences in future and delve into specific sectors to give SMEs a better platform to discuss and learn about unexplored markets out there.
Johor SMEs in the oil palm business and a company producing halal-certified plant-based products shared their business backgrounds and how their products could be exported to overseas markets, too.
Besides that, speakers from China and Singapore also highlighted the potential and policies for trade in their respective areas in the two-hour session.