Importing items from Malaysia can be a cheaper option for many small businesses in Australia. Especially with the high price to pay for manufacturing and labour in Australia, importing can be a cost effective solution.
Statistics from The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reveal that the annual trade from Malaysia averages over AU $10bn.
As you start your research on importing from Malaysia into Australia, this guide will help you discover how to identify, source, and import goods to sell in Australia.
Importing from Malaysia — The process
Here’s what you need to do if you want to import from Malaysia.
- Obtain information on the types of goods you are allowed to import and carry out market research.
- Explore online marketplaces of manufacturers and suppliers to source the goods you want.
- Carry out due diligence on your supplier and sign a contract with them.
- Arrange for shipping and logistics from Malaysia to Australia.
- Understand the various regulations, tariffs, and licenses you need to export.
- On arrival of your goods in Australia you pay the necessary duty, tariffs, and any other fees.
- Market your goods for sale in Australia.
Dealing with importing, international shipping, tariffs, licenses and more can be tricky. We strongly recommend bringing someone into your business who has experience and knowledge in the field.
What can you import from Malaysia to Australia?
Firstly, it’s important to analyse the market you wish to sell to. Gather information through surveys from your existing clients, explore market trends and analyse your competitors.
Here are some hints and tips:
Avoid food and perishables — It’s very expensive to import goods that can be spoiled, as you’ll need specialized containers. Additionally, Australia has strict regulations on importing produce.
Avoid importing products that are widely available already — It can be hard to wiggle your way into the market when the supply for products are widely available. Plus, larger companies tend to order in bulk at wholesale prices.
Source items based on your prospective market, not the other way around — Discover what your prospective customers want or need and look for items based on your findings. Avoid looking for an item first then finding a market segment.
Understand your margins and pricing — Work out your pricing strategy by calculating your fixed and variable costs.
Sourcing goods from Malaysia
There are a selection of Malaysian suppliers and manufacturers to choose from. You can find them below:
Once you know the types of products you’re after, make a shortlist of suppliers. Next, you’ll want to:
Read reviews on the suppliers including their customer service, the quality of the goods they provide, and any issues others have had with them.
Contact the suppliers and request a sample of the goods you’re interested in. When you receive the sample have it independently appraised to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Ask the supplier about their terms for payment, how long it will take them to send the product to you, what protections and guarantees you have, and what their policies are on returns.
Complete any other due diligence, and if you’re satisfied, sign a contract with them.
Typical container costs — Shipping from Malaysia to Australia
If you’re only purchasing a small quantity or your items aren’t too heavy or bulky, consider air freighting them back to Australia. If you’re buying larger quantities, you’ll probably have to use a shipping container.
The Sea Freight Calculator lists the cost of renting a full container from Malaysia to Australia as approximately:
20 ft container — $850 USD
40 ft container — $1,100 USD
And according to Australia Trade, renting part of a container will cost you between $150 and $250 AUD per cubic meter or 1,000 kilos, whichever is greater.
However, these are purely the costs to ship goods from Malaysia to Australia. Once you get them here you’ll need to pay for getting your goods to a warehouse, storage, insurance, duties, and other fees.
Understanding government regulations on goods imported from Malaysia into Australia
Take note of Australian trade regulations when importing goods. For an in-depth guide, please read our comprehensive article.
Some of these regulations include:
- A special permit may be required for certain types of goods. This include some chemicals, pharmaceuticals, produce, and more.
- Plant and animal goods may be quarantined.
- Tariffs, duties, and taxes may apply— More on that below.
- Some importers may be eligible for government concessions.
- Free trade agreements could work to your advantage.
- Be aware of several other costs.
- Ensure that your goods are labeled correctly.
For full details, please do check out our guide to importing into Australia.
Understand costs to import from Malaysia
Understanding import fees and charges is necessary to avoid getting a shock if you are billed. These costs could include:
The cost of buying the product.
Shipping, logistics, and distribution costs.
Tariffs and duties due to Malaysia on export and Australia on import.
Taxes and tariffs on your imported goods. Spend some time learning about:
Generally, you will have to pay import duty and GST on goods valued over $1,000 AUD.
Import entry costs and processing charges – Customs will charge you a fee (typically under $200 AUD) for processing your goods.
Customs import duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for the goods. The duty rate can range from 0% to 10%, but the rate for most goods is 5%.
Goods and services sales tax (GST) will also be charged based on the following:
The valuation of the goods plus;
The customs import duty amount plus;
The cost of insuring the goods and transporting them to Australia.
GST is charged at 10% of the final amount.
Note that this information is intended as a general guide – fees and charges can be influenced by what you’re bringing in, excise taxes, free trade agreements, and many other factors. Please check with customs based on your individual circumstance.
Certain types of goods are eligible for concessions (reducing the amount of duty you need to pay). You can find a full list and requirements through this page, just look for “List of current tariff concession orders.” You’ll also find additional details on concession schemes here.
Sell your products
Once you’ve received your goods from Malaysia, market them and offer them for sale. Continue to research your markets, source goods, and sell them onwards at a profit, Good luck!
Paying for your goods in foreign currency
Doing import business from Malaysia is usually done in US dollars or Malaysian Ringgit.
If you are bringing goods in from Malaysia, consider using OFX. They specialise in international payments and receipts for Australian businesses. Each client has a personal manager and access to a range of useful products like Forward Exchange Contracts, Options, Limit Orders and Currency Options.
OFX is a trusted partner of The Currency Shop.
Click on this link , sign up and never pay a transfer fee for your international money transfers. Ever.
OFX charges no transaction fees. Minimum transfer A$250. Third party intermediary fees may still apply.
To make sure you understand currency fluctuations of each currency, get some advice.
If you get the money transfer numbers wrong and you could throw your profit projections into chaos. Find a professional currency provider you trust and turn to them to answer any exchange rate questions you may have.
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