The Numbers on Food

There are four main types of food-related licenses issued by the local councils in Penang. These include licenses issued to food and beverage hawkers, restaurants, food trucks as well as food manufacturing and processing premises. Despite the differences in the latest available data, the majority of food and beverage hawkers are located on Penang Island. With a total of 4,667 licenses issued by the local councils, 68.8% had been issued by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) as of June 2018, and the remaining 31.2% were given out by the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) as of August 2018 (Figure 1).

Other food-related permits issued by the local councils include temporary permits for food fairs, festivals and fruit bazaars.

Interestingly, the number of food manufacturing and processing premises on Penang Island surpassed the mainland, with 65% or 284 premises on the island. However, only eight licenses were issued to food trucks in Seberang Perai, and none on the island.

To promote Penang’s food heritage and culture, the Penang International Food Festival (PIFF) and Penang Street Food Festival (PSFF) are among the largest food events held in Penang. In 2017, in its first year, PIFF engaged 200 food vendors to participate and attracted 400,000 visitors (Figure 2). In 2018 the number of stalls increased by 15% to 230 stalls, and the number of visitors skyrocketed by about 80% to 715,000. The two-day PSFF on the other hand attracted about 23,000 gourmands to Penang in 2018.

In terms of investments, the food manufacturing industry can be considered secondary in Penang, with investments totalling to 0.7% from three approved food manufacturing projects in 2017. Looking at 2010 to 2017, total investments reached its peak in 2014 at RM172.7mil, but dropped significantly to nearly RM40mil in 2016. However, since 2010, the average investment per project was highest in 2017, recording an average of RM24.2mil per project (Figure 3).

The Penang International Halal Hub (PIHH) was established to steer the development of the halal industry in Penang. According to PIHH’s statistics, the number of halal-certified food-related industries – including food products, premises and abattoirs – constituted more than 80% of total halal-certified companies in Penang as of May 2018 (Table 1). Specifically, the number of halal-certified food manufacturers and retailers – classified as “food products” – showed an expansion of more than fivefold since 2010. This was followed by food premises (more than fourfold), which include nasi kandar restaurants and cafeterias.

In addition, PIHH has also actively hosted the Penang International Halal Expo and Conference (PIHEC) every year since 2010. Although the number of exhibitors has been on the rise, the number of registered visitors fluctuates each year, attracting an average of 40,000 visitors per year (Figure 4). This event has successfully brought together delegates from various countries, including the UK, Thailand, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, South Africa and etc.

Apart from food manufacturing, Penang continues to flourish in livestock and fisheries production to satisfy local consumption. According to Penang’s Veterinary Services Department, the production of goat/sheep meat experienced the highest average growth of 43% per annum from 2008-2017 (Figure 5), with a total value of RM 7.6mil worth of production in 2017. For the same period, the value of fresh milk increased significantly at 32% annually to RM4.2mil in 2017.

Figure 6 shows the production and value of marine and aquaculture fisheries in Penang from 2008-2017. As can be seen, marine fish landing surpassed the production of aquaculture except in 2014 and 2015. However, the aquaculture industry, which includes fresh and brackish water production, has valued higher than marine fish landings since 2011. Based on the latest data, aquaculture production valued at about RM811mil compared to RM555mil for marine fish landings in 2017. This indicates that the aquaculture industry has strong potential as the main income earner for Penang’s fisheries sector, with a projected production growth of 10% per year until 2020.1

1Department of Fisheries, Penang.

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