Some markets in the Middle East, like Iraq and Iran, are rumored to be unattractive for exporters due to the political situation and slow payments. However, the Malaysian pineapple export company Kulim Berhad actually prefers these markets as opposed to more affluent regions like South Korea.
“Our most important markets are Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. We’ve been exporting to these regions for the last 5 to 6 years. In the last year or so, we’ve also been holding trials for export to countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, the UK and South Korea. But especially South Korea has proven to be a hard market,” says Zim Thamat.
The main problem for export to South Korea is the high requirements for quality. According to Thamat, a large amount of containers with Malaysian pineapples ended up being rejected at the border. “We’ve only had a profit margin of 10%. There is also hardly any room for us to somehow influence the price. For us, dealing with Pakistan, Lebanon or Iraq is much easier,” explains Thamat.
The main competitors for Malaysian pineapples are countries like the Philippines and Thailand, but also well known producing countries like Costa Rica. The Philippines and Thailand have an edge over Malaysia, as these countries have direct access to the US market.
In order to gain more market access in Europe, Kulim Berhad has been working on product diversification. The company is looking for ways to process pineapples into juice, canned products of frozen products. The company is also working to increase its acreage for the cultivation of pineapples. “The population in Malaysia is increasing. We aren’t afraid of any competition, as the demand is increasing as well. The pineapple is an iconic fruit for Malaysia, so there is room for more growers,” concludes Thamat.