Past, Present and Future Report

September 2011

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. This report is intended as a concise overview of the market for those interested in its potential and is not intended to provide in-depth analysis which may be required by the individual exporter. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada assumes no responsibility for its accuracy, reliability, or for any decisions arising from the information contained herein.

Please address any comments or suggestions you have on this report to:

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

  • Considered to be the most export-dependent economy in Asia, Singapore has developed a very successful free market economy, with trade valued at roughly two times its GDP.
  • Singapore's economy is mainly driven by manufacturing and services, which make up 27.2% and 72.8% of GDP respectively.
  • Singapore's land capacity for domestic agricultural production is extremely limited, and the country imports close to 90% of all its food requirements.
  • Canada currently accounts for 0.75% of Singapore's total agri-food imports and is Singapore's 20th largest import.
  • Bread and cereal products, considered staple food items in Singapore, bread and cereal products were the most purchased food products in 2010, making up 21% of total food expenditure.
  • A number of Singaporean consumers are seeking to achieve a healthy lifestyle and as a result, there are significant opportunities for health and wellness products, including low-fat, low-sugar, no trans-fat and low calorie foods.
  • Due to rising disposable incomes, middle-class consumers are becoming increasingly prosperous and are dining at more premium restaurant, cafés and bistros.
  • NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong, Giant, Cold Storage, and Shop & Save are the largest supermarket chains in Singapore, with NTUC FairPrice holding the largest market share at approximately 50%.


Being one of the most highly developed nations in the world, Singapore is a thriving island city-state that boasts high per capita GDP, exceptional infrastructure, a stable political environment, and an advanced economy. The island is well-known for its hyper-efficiency and exceptionally clean environment, with even chewing gum being banned over fears of littering.

Singapore plays a significant role in Southeast Asia, acting as a major gateway to other countries in the area, and is the financial and technological center of the region. However, with limited space for large domestic production, Singapore is highly trade-dependent and possesses one of the busiest ports in the world, second only to Hong Kong.

The country's significant consumer market has developed a strong affinity for Western foods, especially wholesome, organic and convenience food products. This trend ultimately presents significant opportunities for Canadian agri-food exporters looking to enter the Southeast Asian marketplace.

Canada-Singapore Relations

Singapore is a natural location for foreign business and investment, due to its advanced infrastructure, excellent intellectual property right protection, and stable corporate governance. As a result, Singapore is an important investment partner for Canada, and over the past decade, Canada has invested more than $36.1 billion in the country. A number of collaborations have also taken place between these two nations, mainly in the areas of research and development, as well as science and technology.

Singapore is an active member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a strong advocate for regional growth and development, and a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Canada is a dialogue partner of ASEAN and has long been involved in developing co-operation in the region. Canada-ASEAN political and trade ties are quite strong, and as one of APEC's founding members, Canada is very active within the organization and has a history of promoting trade liberalization and facilitation initiatives. Through APEC support, Canada is committed to the continuation of improving customs procedures, requirements, efficiency and effectiveness. Canada-Singapore relations are further strengthened with membership in the Commonwealth and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Due to its extensive reliance on foreign trade, Singapore actively seeks favourable free trade agreements with other nations and continually looks to form strong bilateral relations. On October 21, 2001, negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement between Canada and Singapore were launched. The 8th round of negotiations took place from August 13-15, 2007; although negotiations are still ongoing, Canada is expected to benefit from services and investments through this accord.

For more information on the status of the Canada-Singapore Free Trade Agreement negotiations please visit:

Canada-Singapore Bilateral Trade (2010)
Singapore Total Trade $682.6 billion
Exports $362.4 billion
Imports $320.2 billion
Trade balance $42.3 billion
Canada-Singapore Trade $1.9 billion
Exports $834.9 million
Imports $1.1 billion
Trade balance ($302.3 million)
Canada-Singapore Ag Trade $92.8 million
Exports $60.5 million
Imports $32.3 million
Trade balance $28.2 million
  • Singapore is Canada's 25th largest export market (2nd largest in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia) and 38th largest source for imports to Canada.
  • Canada-Singapore bilateral trade totalled $1.9 billion in 2010. This value increased by 14.2% from its 2006 total of $1.7 billion.
  • Canada's top exports to Singapore include machinery (32.9% of exports), electrical machinery (8.9%), and optical, medical instruments (7.6%).
  • Canada's top imports from Singapore include electrical machinery (26.8%), machinery (25.3%), and pharmaceutical products (13.8%).

Agricultural Trade

Although total agricultural trade between Canada and Singapore has fluctuated over the past several years, it increased by 12.5% in 2010, from $82.5 million in 2009 to over $92.8 million in 2010. Canada currently accounts for 0.75% of Singapore's total agri-food imports and is Singapore's 20th largest import source. From an export value of $34.3 million in 2005, Canada's agri-food exports have increased more than 75% to reach 2010's value of $60.5 million.

Although Singapore is a large exporter, agriculture and agri-food comprises only a small portion of its total exports due to the country's small size and minimal agricultural industry. Sizeable business and R&D opportunities are present in Singapore's agri-food industry.

Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Exports
to Singapore (2010)
Animal feed preparations, nes $12.0 million
Soya beans, nes $10.1 million
Poultry feeds, complete $7.8 million
Swine cuts, frozen nes $7.5 million
Food preparations, nes $3.7 million
Canada's Top 5 Fish and Seafood Exports
to Singapore (2010)
Oysters $1.4 million
Lobsters $620,711
Lobsters in brine $421,248
Geoduck clams $310,642
Sardines $266,800
  • Total Canada-Singapore agricultural trade represents approximately $92.8 million or 4.9% of all trade between the two countries, while fish and seafood trade represented close to $7.2 million.
  • Top Canadian agricultural exports to Singapore in 2010 were animal feed preparations, totalling $12.0 million and representing approximately 19.8% of total agri-food exports; soya beans at $10.1 million, or 16.7% of exports; and poultry feeds, worth over $7.8 million and 12.9% of exports. Frozen swine cuts and food preparations each accounted for $7.5 million and $3.7 million, or 12.4% and 6.1% of exports respectively.
  • Oysters and lobsters were the top fish and seafood products exported to Singapore in 2010, and each accounted for $1.4 million and $620,711, or 38% and 17.1% of fish and seafood exports respectively. Lobsters in brine, valued at $421,248, accounted for 11.6% of exports, while geoduck clams, valued at $310,642, made up 8.5%; accounting for $266,800, sardines represented 7.3% of total exports.

Canada's agri-food imports from Singapore have also fluctuated over the past few years from $33.4 million in 2008 to $31.1 million in 2009, and $32.3 million in 2010. These changes were largely due to increases in edible vegetables and certain roots and shrubs between 2009 and 2010, and reductions in dairy produce imports between 2008 and 2009. Cocoa and cocoa preparations have remained Canada's top import commodity from Singapore over the past three years and typically accounts for about 62.9% of total agri-food imports.

Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Imports
from Singapore (2010)
Cocoa butter, fat and oil $15.1 million
Cocoa paste, wholly or partly defatted $4.5 million
Doughs, frozen $2.1 million
Leguminous vegetable seed $882,768
Doughs $758,573
Canada’s Top 5 Fish and Seafood Imports
from Singapore (2010)
Ornamental fish, live $1.6 million
Freshwater fish, nes, frozen $1 million
Fish meat, nes, frozen $337,426
Fishsticks $150,269
Molluscs, nes, and other aquatic invertebrates, cooked, frozen $86,225
  • Canadian imports from Singapore in 2010 were cocoa butter, fat and oil, valued at over $15.1 million and making up about 46.7% of all agri-food imports; cocoa paste, valued at over $4.5 million or 14% of total imports, and frozen doughs totalling $2.1 million or 6.5%. Other major Canadian agri-food imports included leguminous vegetable seed and doughs worth $882,768 and $758,573 respectively, or roughly 2.7% and 2.3% of total imports each.
  • Top seafood imports from Singapore were live ornamental fish, at $1.6 million or 45% of total imports, frozen fresh water fish at $1 million or 28%, and fish meat at $337,426 or 9.3% of all fish and seafood imports. Fish sticks were valued at $150,269 and accounted for 4.1%; while molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates represented $86,225 or 2.4%.

Complete Statistical Summary Available at the Agri-Food Trade Service's Canadian Trade Data by Country:


Considered to be the most export-dependent economy in Asia, Singapore has developed a very successful free market economy, with trade valued at roughly two times its GDP. The country enjoys a number of economic strengths including strong service and manufacturing sectors, excellent infrastructure, and an open and corruption-free environment. Singapore's continual establishment of free trade agreements are expected to create new opportunities for the country, as such accords improve market access and encourage foreign investment. The country's growing exports, increased inbound tourism and higher consumer spending, also contribute to further economic growth.

In order to maintain its market competitiveness and hold its position as a primary gateway to Southeast Asia, the Singaporean government continues to exercise an export-oriented economic policy through membership in multilateral trading alliances, such as the WTO, and various regional trade associations.

Singapore's economy is mainly driven by manufacturing and services, which make up 27.2% and 72.8% of Singapore's GDP respectively. The state plans to restructure the economy to increase its competitiveness to support such ongoing economic development.

With an end goal of developing new services and consumer industries, Singapore is also shifting away from a sole investment-focus in order to be more innovation-driven. In doing so, Singapore plans to become a "knowledge centre", to promote new and existing manufacturing and service sectors, foster entrepreneurship, increase "human capital", and maintain attractive tax incentives to encourage foreign investment.

The Singaporean government takes an export-oriented approach to economic policy and promotes two-way trade and investment. Legal and regulatory systems are transparent, no equity is required to establish a business in Singapore, and there are little, or no, foreign ownership or control restrictions. Foreign firms are present in nearly all economic sectors of Singapore, with the industrial sector largely dominated by foreign multinationals.

Gross Domestic Product (2010)
GDP US$222.7 billion
GDP growth 14.5% (2010)
5.2% (2011e)
4.4% (2012e)
GDP/capita US$42,653
GDP/capita (PPP) US$57,238

Current economic trends:

  • GDP reached a value of US$222.7 billion in 2010, with a growth rate of 14.5%.
  • In 2010, Singapore's unemployment rate was approximately 2.1% and 2.8 million people were employed.
  • At 94.2%, services and manufacturing accounted for the largest percentage of Singapore's GDP in 2010.

Forecasted economic trends:

  • GDP growth is forecast to slow to 5.2% in 2011, from its 14.5% rate in 2010, and reach over US$253.7 billion in 2011.
  • Inflation is projected to decrease from 2.8% in 2010, to 2% by 2015.
  • Expected to remain low, unemployment will reach a rate of 2.2% in 2013.
  • Government debt is expected to decrease by 14.2% in 2015 from 2010.

Consumer Markets

With a highly skilled and educated workforce, Singapore's population is expected to significantly grow over the next few years. Singaporean consumers are leading busier lifestyles, have rising disposable incomes, and are willing to spend more on high quality and premium foods. Food is considered to be an important part of Singaporean culture and way of life, with friends often greeting each other by first asking whether the other has already eaten.

Consumer expenditure totalled US$82.8 billion in 2010, and is expected to rise approximately 67.4% to reach $138.6 billion in 2020. Spending on food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages accounted for 7% of overall consumer spending. Due to strong economic growth, the already successful Singaporean foodservice and retail sectors have been further strengthened. Average disposable household income is projected to further rise by 13.8% in 2011.

With increasingly busier lifestyles, Singaporean consumers are opting to purchase ready meals and processed food items, which offer both convenience and affordability. Consumers are looking to select products that offer a number of health benefits, whether it is low-fat, low-calories, or low-sugar. As a result, many manufacturers are innovating and developing a variety of new products, which adopt the growing health and wellness trend. Convenience foods are now more affordable, and come in a variety of healthy food options.


  • Singapore's population is growing at a rate of 0.8%, and totalled 5.1 million people in 2010.
  • Over 47% of Singapore's population is between the ages of 20 to 49, with 24.3% under the age of 19, and 28.7% over the age of 50.
  • Malay is the national language of Singapore, with Mandarin, English, and Tamil as official languages.
  • The ethnic composition of Singapore is predominantly Chinese, at 76.8% of the total population, with a smaller population of Malaysians (13.9%) and Indians (7.9%).
  • Buddhism and Islam are the two main religions in Singapore, with 57% of the population practicing either one of these two religions.
  • Singapore has a skilled and educated workforce and in 2010, 2.8 million people were employed.


  • Due to the growing demand for convenience foods, expenditure on take-away and home delivery grew by 94% between 2006 and 2009.
  • As a result of rising disposable incomes, which experienced a growth of 14.2% in 2010, total sales of premium and luxury goods increased by 18% between 2006 and 2010. Singaporeans are spending more on premium goods, and are prepared to spend more on imported high quality and gourmet food items.
  • Considered staple food items in Singapore, bread and cereal were the most purchased food products in 2010, making up 21% of total food expenditure. Meat and seafood each made up 17% of total food spending, followed by vegetables with 13% and dairy products at 11%.

Processed/Packaged Food

  • Due to hectic lifestyles, many Singaporean consumers prefer to purchase processed and packaged food items because of convenience and limited preparation time.
  • Within the processed and packaged food market ready meals experienced a 5.3% increase, reaching US$34.3 million in 2010.
  • Canned/preserved ready meals are the strongest sub-section within the ready meal category, accounting for 82.1% of total sales.
  • As a result of increasing health awareness, Singaporean consumers frequently avoid genetically-modified (GM) foods, and instead prefer to purchase organic food items.
  • With a forecasted growth rate of 17.6% in 2015, instant soup is expected to be a strong performer in terms of value.
  • Frozen processed poultry reached US$23.1 million in sales in 2010, and was the most significant category within the frozen processed food sector.
  • Frozen desserts experienced significant growth at 6.2%, and are expected to further increase by 2.5% in 2011. This is mainly due to more consumers adapting the generally Western practice of eating a dessert following a meal.

Retail Food Sector

  • With a total of 270 supermarkets in 2010, this retail category is considered to be the biggest channel, making up a 52% share of total value sales.
  • Due to increased interest in imported food items, a growing number of Singaporean consumers are shopping at more modern retail formats, including convenience stores, hypermarkets and supermarkets.
  • NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong, Giant, Cold Storage, and Shop & Save are the largest supermarket chains in Singapore, with NTUC FairPrice holding the largest market share at approximately 50%.
  • Singaporeans still prefer to purchase their groceries in person rather than online, with online food and drink purchases accounting for approximately 7.1% of all internet retailing. This is mainly due to the nearness of most retail centres, and many supermarkets offering a complimentary home delivery service for purchases over a certain amount.
  • Although Internet retailing is expected to grow 47.4% by 2015, grocery retailing still accounts for a larger share of total retail at 26.6%, compared to internet retailing at only 2.9%.

Foodservice Industry

  • Although, Singapore used to have a world-class street food scene, vendors are now off the streets and onto large pavilions scattered over the island. These hawker stands have since decreased in numbers, as Singaporeans are increasingly looking towards higher paying professions, with better hours and more social prestige.
  • Foodservice centres are experiencing significant growth in tourist locations, and as a result, an increased demand for imported and premium goods is expected to occur.
  • With busier schedules and an average work week of 48 hours, many Singaporean consumers are opting to eat at fast-food places and restaurants, as well as order from take-away places and home delivery services.
  • Take-away and home delivery services experienced a growth of 6.3% in value terms, while street kiosk purchases increased by 12.1% in 2010.
  • Gaining in popularity, fast food restaurant purchases grew by 16.9% in 2010, and are projected to further increase by 2011, reaching a value of US$813.3 million.
  • Due to rising disposable incomes, middle-class consumers are becoming increasingly prosperous and are dining at more premium restaurant, cafés and bistros.


Labelled as the culinary capital of the Southeast Asian region (SEA), Singaporeans consider eating to be a national pastime, and typically consume five meals a day. This presents major opportunities for Canadian agri-food exporters.

  • Singapore has a growing tourism industry, which currently contributes 3% to GDP. In 2010, 11.6 million tourists visited Singapore, mainly from ASEAN nations (i.e. Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand), and Europe (i.e. United Kingdom, Germany, and France). This significant number of international visitors presents an increased demand for imported food items.
  • With Islam being the second largest religion in Singapore, the Singaporean market holds considerable opportunity for halal food manufacturers and ingredients.
  • Singaporeans are found of the durian, which is a greenish fruit with custard-like interior and a prickly shell. Although this fruit is relatively expensive to purchase and considered to be a delicacy, food items that use durian as an ingredient or can mimic its flavouring, are expected to be very popular with Singaporeans.
  • Due to the increasingly hectic lifestyles of consumers, particular agri-food products that hold strong opportunities in the Singaporean market include premium frozen foods and ready meals. There are also a number of opportunities for manufacturers of diced vegetables, fresh fruits, soup, tree nuts, dairy products, chilled desserts, biscuits, and sweet and savoury snacks, as well as pet food.
  • A number of Singaporean consumers are seeking to achieve a healthy lifestyle and as a result, there are significant opportunities for health and wellness products, including low-fat, low-sugar, no trans-fat and low-calorie foods.

For further information on the opportunities in Southeast Asia, please visit the Agri-Food Trade Service website:


As an APEC and ASEAN member, Singapore relies heavily on its many association partners as import sources, making the territory a more challenging market for Canadian products and companies to penetrate. Singapore's principal agri-food import sources, Malaysia (19.7% of imports), France (9.9%), Indonesia (8.5%), Australia (8.0%), China (6.8%), and the U.S. (6.4%) represent Canada's top competition in the Singaporean export market.

Furthermore, Singapore's reliance on international business has resulted in 19 free trade agreements (FTAs) being established between the country and numerous trading partners, including Japan, India, China, Australia and the United States. Four more FTAs are being negotiated with Mexico, Ukraine, Canada, and Pakistan.

Access Issues

Singapore remains a destination of constant trade and investment interest for foreign investors, and holds strong potential for Canadian companies wanting to penetrate the Southeast Asian market. To facilitate successful market entry, Canadian exporters are encouraged to develop market entry strategies that include working with local importers and distributors to develop a presence, gain valuable market advice, and best position products to meet local tastes, laws and pricing.

Singapore's excellent infrastructure makes the country an attractive export destination for many foreign suppliers. The nation boasts a strategic location at the centre of international shipping routes, and acts as a major trans-shipment point to other Southeast Asian markets. The country's roadways also connect to neighbouring markets, Malaysia and Thailand. Home to a world-class port system, one of the world's leading cargo airports, a well-developed highway and transit system, and advanced IT and telecommunication sectors, Singapore remains one of the best connected countries worldwide. In addition, the logistics of exporting to Singapore are further facilitated, because of the more than 3,000 logistics and supply-chain-management (SCM) companies operating in the country.

In addition to the WTO, APEC and ASEAN, Singapore is a member of the United Nations (UN) and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and implements international accords and policies from these bodies. The majority of Singapore's requirements governing imports are co-ordinated with WTO regulations, while others are specific to the region.

Although Singapore remains a free market economy, it does hold several import regulations which Canadian exporters should be aware of before entering the market:

  • Singapore is virtually a duty-free port and does not apply tariffs or quotas to food commodities. However, taxes on liquor, tobacco and tobacco products do apply. It is recommended that Canadian exporters contact Singapore Customs when checking import duties on such individual products at
  • A customs permit is also required from Singapore Customs for each shipment of food products. Exporters can apply for the permit via the custom authority's TradeNet System. Approximately 99% of customs permits are approved through this system within 48 hours.
  • A 5% goods and service tax (GST) rate is applied on the costs, insurance and freight (CIF) of all imported agri-food products and beverages.
  • The Food Control Division (FCD) of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) oversees food safety, licensing, inspection and import control. Processed food and beverage exports to Singapore need to be registered with the FCD. For more information please visit the AVA website at
  • The import, sale or advertisement of chewing gum is prohibited in Singapore; however, "oral dental gum" with therapeutic benefits is allowed.
  • For more detailed information on customs procedures, documentation, tariffs and labelling requirements consult the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Trade Commissioner Service at, where you can also find contact information for Trade Commissioners.

Business Travel Tips

Although Singaporean business customs are similar to those in North America, a good understanding of the differences is important for successful market entry.

  • English and Mandarin are widely spoken, with English considered the language of administration and international business in Singapore. Malay and Tamil are also common in Singapore, and are both considered to be official languages.
  • Private sector business hours generally run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Government offices conduct business between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
  • Accept and offer business cards with both hands, and make sure to read them for a few seconds before putting them away.
  • Singaporeans prefer to first develop a personal relationship on which to later build a business connection. As a result, Singaporeans are more formal than Canadians and typically use their family names during introductions. Note that many Chinese Singaporeans have a European and Chinese name, with the Chinese name following the surname (e.g. Andrew Tan Yew Meng), but usually only use their family names during introductions (e.g. Mr. Tan).
  • Singaporeans do not always bring up problems or negative responses in conversation as it may offend. Therefore, one should pay careful attention to their counterparts' body language as they may not openly express their concerns.
  • Although 76.8% of Singapore's population is Chinese, 13.9% Malaysian, and 7.9% Indian, each of these segments maintains their respective culture and customs. The country's Muslim population also abstains from eating pork or drinking alcohol, and strict Buddhists and Hindus do not eat beef.

Agriculture Sector & Policies

As a 697 sq km island city-state with 4.7 million residents, Singapore's land capacity for domestic agricultural production is extremely limited, and the country imports close to 90% of all its food requirements. Furthermore, with arable land only accounting for a mere 1.47% of total agricultural land, and permanent crops comprising this entire amount, the country's agricultural sector is essentially non-existent; agriculture contributes very little to its overall GDP and employs only 0.1% of the population.

In turn, Singapore is obliged to heavily rely on imports to satisfy its agriculture and agri-food need, as. Of the country's limited agricultural output, orchids, vegetables, poultry, eggs, fish, and ornamental fish comprise the majority of production.

Contact Information

The High Commission of Canada to Singapore
Street Address:
One George Street, #11-01
Singapore, 049145
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 845. Robinson Road
Singapore, 901645
Tel: (011 65) 6854 5900
Fax: (011 65) 6854 5930

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 8:00-16:30, Friday: 8:00-13:30
Time Difference: E.S.T.: +13

Mr. Francis Chan
Trade Commissioner
Agricultural Technology and Equipment, Agriculture, Food and Beverages, Bio-Industries, Consumer Products, Fish and Seafood Products, Market Access

Ms. Susan Loke
Trade Commissioner
Agricultural Technology and Equipment, Agriculture, Food and Beverages

Key Resources

  • Background Note: Singapore. US Department of State, n.d.
  • "Canada - Singapore - Free Trade Agreement Negotiations." Negotiations and Agreements. DFAIT, 28 June 2011.
  • Canadian Agricultural Trade Statistics (CATS). Statistics Canada/ AAFC, 2011.
  • "Consumer Foodservice in Singapore." Euromonitor International. Passport GMID, 31 Aug. 2011.
  • "Consumer Lifestyles in Singapore." Euromonitor International. Passport GMID, 4 Apr. 2011.
  • "FDI Statistics." Trade, Investment & Economic Statistics. DFAIT, 2011.
  • Globe Trade Atlas. Global Trade Information Services, Inc., 2011.
  • "Grocery Retailers in Singapore." Euromonitor International. Passport GMID, 12 Jan. 2011.
  • "Internet Retailing in Singapore." Euromonitor International. Passport GMID, 12 Jan. 2011.
  • Keohane, Joe. "Durian in Tomorrowland." Hemispheres Magazine Aug. 2011.   Continental Airlines.
  • "Singapore." The World Factbook. CIA, n.d.
  • "Singapore's Foreign Trade Agreements." International Enterprise Singapore. Singapore Government, n.d.