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Ramadan in Southeast Asia - statistics & facts

Ramadan, which starts on April 3 and ends on May 2 in 2022 in Southeast Asia, is arguably the biggest holiday season in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia. During Ramadan, observant Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset and concentrate on doing good deeds and strengthening their faith. After a month of fasting, Muslims celebrate overcoming this challenge with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, known as Hari Raya in Malaysia, and Lebaran in Indonesia. Eid celebrations in these countries typically involve visiting family and friends in the hometowns and villages, feasting on traditional food and baked goods. Many would be decked out in their best traditional outfits, usually newly bought.

Importance of Ramadan for the food retail sector in Malaysia and Indonesia

Ramadan is the most important time of the year for food vendors in Malaysia and Indonesia. Although daytime is characterized by abstaining from food and drink, nighttime is quite the opposite. In Malaysia, night bazaars packed with street food vendors would spring up in every city and village. The Indonesian practice of bukber, or breaking of the fast out of home, mean that food sales tend to increase during this time. Malaysians too make an event of breaking fast out of home, especially with friends.

Food FMCG retail sales also increase during Ramadan, as families prepare for Eid. The tradition of serving guests sweet drinks, as well as sweet baked goods, lead to an increase in the retail growth of food products such as baking ingredients and non-alcoholic beverages compared to the non-Ramadan period.

The preparation for Eid is also an important time in the retail calendars of Malaysia and Indonesia. In Malaysia, the Ramadan and Hari Raya season is among its most anticipated sales period. In Indonesia, all employees receive a 13th month bonus, the Tunjangan Hari Raya, a month before their respective religious holiday. Apart from spending on food, alms and donations, Indonesian Muslim consumers also planned for purchasing new clothing when budgeting for their holiday spending.

Ramadan during the Omicron wave

The restrictions and curbs implemented for Ramadan during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic have been largely lifted in both Malaysia and Indonesia this year. Night bazaars, restaurants, and cafes are allowed to open, and communal prayers at the mosque are currently permitted in both countries. This is despite the large number of daily COVID-19 cases in Malaysia and the rising total COVID-19 cases in Indonesia due to the Omicron wave. However, vaccination rates in both Malaysia and Indonesia have increased significantly compared to the previous Ramadan season; in Malaysia alone, 79 percent of the population were fully-vaccinated as of March 2022. Meanwhile, the Government of Indonesia had announced that they were accelerating the COVID-19 vaccination in time for Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. After two years of restrictions on festivities, Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia could look forward to celebrating Ramadan as they used to pre-COVID-19.

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