The significance of Asian countries in the global agricultural food markets and trade has witnessed a remarkable rise in the past two decades. In terms of growth in participation, their active involvement as exporters and importers has surpassed that of Northern countries. The unprecedented global health crisis has prompted us to recognize the crucial need to maintain uninterrupted trade as a guarantee of the availability of essential products but also to sustain both the global and local economies.
Since Fairtrade producers are heavily dependent on international trade, they persistently encounter numerous obstacles in their efforts to rebuild their communities and revive their economies. Additionally, they face the challenge of devising a strategy to introduce their products to the local market, where most consumers remain unfamiliar with the concept of Fairtrade. Beginning in 2020, Fairtrade NAPP has embarked on an exploration of prominent Trade Fairs in Asian countries. Their strategy aims to facilitate the expansion of the South-to-South market, establish a substantial presence for Fairtrade within Asian nations, and introduce Fairtrade products to a wider audience.
In Sri Lanka, the SRI PROM project was funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in collaboration with the Fairtrade Network of Asia and Pacific Producers (NAPP) and Fairtrade Italy with the objective of raising local awareness about Fairtrade. As part of this initiative, 4 supply chains including producers and traders have been established to promote domestic sales. The project aimed to strengthen the social and economic well-being of rural Sri Lanka by fostering the growth of environmentally sustainable, high-profit supply chains for small-scale farmers.
Fairtrade NAPP has recognized Trade Fairs as an excellent platform for raising awareness about the principles and values of Fairtrade among local consumers, potential stakeholders, and businesses within the country. Additionally, these Trade Fairs serve to connect producers with potential buyers and traders in Sri Lanka. Given the importance, Fairtrade participated in 3 trade fairs to target consumers, businesses, and govt. bodies. Around 10 meetings were conducted with 3 brands over the duration to discuss the arrangement and details of the fairs.
Fairtrade NAPP actively took part in a Culinary Art Exhibition to exhibit and promote its range of products in BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Representatives from 3 brands from 3 supply chains were supported by Fairtrade NAPP to use this platform as a prospect to showcase their organic products. This opportunity proved to be instrumental in establishing valuable connections with potential buyers. Furthermore, it resulted in an influx of inquiries from interested buyers, leading to an increase in Fairtrade sales. The event also paved the way for long-term supply chain opportunities for Fairtrade producers. In addition to this, Fairtrade used this platform to develop connections with various individuals, government bodies and businesses among others.
Similarly, Fairtrade NAPP also participated in trade fairs organized at Visakha College during New Year Festival and in Open University Exhibition. 3 Brands from 3 supply chains exhibited their diverse range of products. Despite the initial challenge of limited brand awareness, the Fairtrade products garnered a positive response from consumers. As a result, the trade fairs successfully raised awareness about Fairtrade and its associated products/brands among more than 5000 individuals. This included customers who made purchases, visitors to the exhibition stalls, and potential customers. The sales of Fairtrade products in Sri Lanka witnessed a remarkable increase in the amount. Additionally, around 112 meetings were conducted with Fairtrade prospective buyers. Given the importance of Mother’s Day, the 2 brand licensees as part of their local market initiative with their producers got together with Fairtrade NAPP to organize an event to support low-income pregnant mothers’ turn to safe food by using organic and fairtrade food culture.
Overall, these activities across various locations and occasions have proved to be a resounding success. Through these events, Fairtrade producers were able to showcase their products, establish connections with buyers, and generate significant interest among consumers. The events played a crucial role in raising awareness about Fairtrade and its values, resulting in increased sales and brand recognition. The positive feedback from customers, the overwhelming turnout of visitors, and the tangible impact on the local economy all validate the success of these trade fairs. Fairtrade NAPP looks forward to building upon this success and continuing to create opportunities for Fairtrade producers to thrive in the future.
“I am glad to have this opportunity to promote our Fairtrade brand World of Organic, for the first time in Sri Lanka. Here we are able to get a very good customer base of nearly 2000 and nearly 100 positive bulk buyer contacts.” – Mr Thushara Wijesinghe, Alofa All Inland Organic Farmers Association.
“It’s nice to see Fairtrade Products in the Sri Lankan Market.” – Professor W. Nirmala S. Perera at Culinary Art Exhibition.
“These trade fairs are one step closer to building awareness of the New Generation about Fairtrade Products.” -Thilomi Maduka, Marketing Manager, Ceylbee International, Bee Natural Brand.