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Top 15 Trading Companies in Singapore and How to Start One

Singapore, a small island nation at the crossroads of Asia, has earned a reputation as a global trading hub. Its success in the world of commerce is deeply intertwined with the activities of trading companies. 

These trading companies have played a pivotal role in connecting producers and consumers, managing risks in international trade, and contributing significantly to the country’s economic growth.

This comprehensive article explores the world of trading companies in Singapore and how to start one in Singapore’s trade-centric economy.

What is Trading Company?

A trading company, also known as a trading firm or trading house, is a business entity that primarily buys and sells various goods and commodities. These companies don’t typically produce goods but focus on product distribution, import, export, and resale. Trading companies act as intermediaries in the supply chain, connecting producers or manufacturers with consumers or other businesses.

Read More: Essential Guide to Start an Export Company in Singapore

Profiles of Trading Companies in Singapore

1. Trafigura Group

Trafigura is a leading commodity trading company with a global presence. It specialises in trading energy commodities, base metals, and bulk commodities. Established in 1993, Trafigura has its headquarters in Singapore, and it has grown to become one of the largest independent commodity traders in the world. The company’s operations cover the entire supply chain, from sourcing and trading to logistics and distribution. Trafigura is known for its extensive global network, efficient risk management strategies, and strong industry relationships with producers and consumers.

Sector: Commodity Trading

2. Olam International

Olam International is a significant player in the agribusiness sector. Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Singapore, Olam focuses on sourcing, processing, and distributing agricultural products and food ingredients. The company operates across various segments, including edible nuts, spices, coffee, cotton, and cocoa. Olam is committed to sustainability and has a strong presence in emerging markets. It stands out for its integrated supply chain management and a focus on responsible and ethical sourcing.

Sector: Agribusiness and Food Processing

3. Mitsui & Co.

Mitsui & Co. is a Japanese trading company with a substantial presence in Singapore. Founded in 1947, Mitsui engages in diverse trading activities, including energy, metals, machinery, chemicals, and food. The company has a global footprint is known for its well-established partnerships, investment in infrastructure projects, and strong industry expertise. Mitsui operates across various sectors and has a reputation for innovation and adaptability.

Sector: Diversified Trading

4. Pacific International Lines (PIL)

Pacific International Lines (PIL) is a Singaporean shipping company that has expanded into logistics and container manufacturing. Established in 1967, PIL operates a significant container shipping business and offers comprehensive logistics solutions, including warehousing and distribution services. PIL is known for its global maritime network, adaptability, and commitment to sustainability.

Sector: Shipping and Logistics

5. Wilmar International

Wilmar International is a significant player in agribusiness, focusing on palm oil, sugar, edible oils, and grains. Founded in 1991 and headquartered in Singapore, Wilmar is one of the largest agribusiness companies globally. The company is distinguished by its commitment to sustainability, from responsible sourcing practices to environmental initiatives. Wilmar operates across the entire agribusiness value chain, from plantation to retail, and is a crucial player in the palm oil industry.

Sector: Agribusiness

6. Cargill

Cargill is an American multinational corporation with a significant presence in Singapore. Founded in 1865, Cargill operates in the agriculture, food processing, and commodities trading sectors. The company is known for its extensive operations in food production and processing, including manufacturing agricultural products. Cargill focuses on innovation and sustainability throughout its supply chain, from farming to distribution.

Sector: Agriculture and Food Processing

7. Louis Dreyfus Company

Louis Dreyfus Company is a global merchant and processor of agricultural goods, including grains, oilseeds, coffee, cotton, and sugar. Established in 1851, the company has a long history in the trading industry. It operates across multiple commodities, offering origination, processing, and distribution services. Louis Dreyfus Company is recognised for its supply chain expertise and commitment to responsible and sustainable practices.

Sector: Agriculture and Commodities

8. Mercuria Energy Group

Mercuria Energy Group, a Swiss-founded energy trading company in Singapore, specializes in energy trading. The company specialises in trading crude oil, natural gas, and other commodities. Mercuria has a strong presence in the energy sector, and it distinguishes itself through innovative trading solutions, risk management, and a focus on technology and digitalisation.

Sector: Energy and Commodities Trading

9. Vitol Group

Vitol Group is a prominent global energy and commodity market player. Founded in 1966, Vitol trades crude oil, refined products, natural gas, and other commodities. The company has a reputation for its deep expertise in energy markets, risk management capabilities, and a vast network of assets and infrastructure.

Sector: Energy and Commodities Trading

10. Noble Group

Noble Group trades energy products, metals, and agricultural commodities. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Hong Kong with a significant presence in Singapore, Noble has a diverse portfolio and global reach. The company’s operations span multiple sectors, and has been an active player in the trading industry.

Sector: Energy, Metals, and Agriculture

11. Gunvor Group

Gunvor Group is a global energy trading company specialising in crude oil, refined products, and natural gas. Founded in 2000, the company has established itself as a significant player in the energy trading sector. Gunvor is known for its expertise in energy markets, trading capabilities, and strong global presence.

Sector: Energy Trading

12. Glencore

Glencore is a diversified natural resources company that trades in metals, minerals, energy products, and agricultural commodities. Established in 1974, the company operates across a wide range of commodities and has a solid global presence. Glencore is distinguished by its integration across the natural resources value chain and extensive international operations.

Sector: Mining and Commodities

13. ADM (Archer Daniels Midland)

ADM is a global food processing and commodities trading corporation focusing on agriculture and food products. Founded in 1902, ADM is involved in agricultural processing, trading, and distribution. The company emphasises innovation in food and agriculture and operates a vast network of processing facilities.

Sector: Agriculture and Food Processing

14. COFCO International

COFCO International is a global agribusiness company that trades grains, oilseeds, and sugar. The company, with its origins in 1949, operates across the agribusiness value chain, from origination to distribution. The company has a global footprint and focuses on responsible and sustainable sourcing practices.

Sector: Agriculture

15. Sumitomo Corporation

Sumitomo Corporation is a Japanese trading company with diverse business activities, including energy, metals, machinery, chemicals, etc. Founded in 1919, Sumitomo has a global reach and a well-established presence in various sectors. The company’s strength lies in its diversified portfolio and extensive industry expertise.

Sector: Diversified Trading

Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Top 12 Logistics and Freight Companies in Singapore

How to Start a Trading Company in Singapore

Trading companies in Singapore need several licenses and permits to conduct their activities. The licenses and permits required can vary depending on the nature of the products being traded, the countries involved, and their regulatory requirements. Here are some of the standard licenses and permits you need to start a trading company in Singapore.

Step 1: Business Registration

Every business in Singapore must register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). The type of business structure chosen (e.g., Private Limited Company, Limited Liability Partnership, Sole Proprietorship) determines the registration process.

Step 2: Import and Export Licenses

The need for import and export licenses depends on the trade type. Singapore Customs issues these licenses (including the Customs Import Permit), and companies must register with the TradeNet system for customs clearance. Specific import-export licenses exist for controlled items, strategic goods, and particular categories like pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

Step 3: Applying for Trading Company Licenses

Companies involved in commodity trade, which many international trading companies are, must obtain a Commodity Trading License from Enterprise Singapore. The license is often required for companies trading in oil, gas, chemicals, palm oil, rubber, soya beans, iron ore and aluminium.

Certain industries also have specific licensing requirements. For instance, companies trading in chemicals may need a hazardous substances permit. The Singapore government has developed a robust guide to applying for these industry licenses.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Customs Import Tariffs in Singapore

How Luwjistik Helps

One of the critical sources of revenue growth for any trading company is an efficient supply chain. Your business will need timely and cost-effective delivery of freight. That’s why you need a logistics platform like Luwjistik. It is a logistics platform solution designed to streamline processes and establish connections to a network of logistics service providers, simplifying the supply chain without requiring investment in on-ground logistics assets. 

Here’s how Luwjistik can assist you:

  • Marketplace
    • Luwjistik’s Marketplace connects logistics service providers to a diverse network of over 80 partners across 22 countries. This extensive network offers a wide range of logistics and freight options and transparent cost management, facilitating well-informed decision-making.
  • L-Freight
    • L-Freight offers an all-in-one platform for businesses engaged in B2B shipments. This platform streamlines selecting suitable freight, submitting comprehensive shipment orders, and efficiently managing customs documentation. It also provides cost-saving benefits through group buy rates, allowing businesses to optimise transportation costs, thus improving overall operational efficiency for B2B shipments within a single logistics framework.
  • Unified API
    • Luwjistik streamlines your delivery operations by offering a Unified API, allowing seamless integration with multiple logistics service providers through a single interface. This simplification reduces complexity, making it easier to compare and select the most suitable logistics and freight partners worldwide, including Singapore. It enhances the efficiency of your supply chain and logistics processes without additional resources.

To embark on a transformative journey and explore these strategic logistics approaches, visit our website at luwjistik.com or contact our representative at commercial@luwjistik.com today.