The unprecedented global health crisis has made us realise how important it is to keep the trade flowing to not only ensure the supply of essential products but also to keep the global and local economy afloat. A further challenge is uncertainty in terms of the economic recovery time frame in the new normal, due to which the Govts and consumers are already giving much importance to promote and invest in local trade. In developing countries, agricultural trade is essential for saving both lives and livelihoods of the majority of the population. Since Fairtrade producers are highly reliant on international trade, they continue to face multiple challenges in trying to build back their communities and recover the lost economy as well as trying to find a strategy to place their products in the local market where the majority of the consumers are still unfamiliar with the concept of Fairtrade. Therefore, to create awareness of Fairtrade and to promote South to South trade for market expansion and development, the Network of Asia and Pacific Producers have started facilitating the participation of producers in renowned National Trade Fairs across various countries in Asia.
In Feb 2021, NAPP participated at Sri Lanka’s Largest Sri Lankan made Products and Services exhibition – ‘’BE SRI LANKAN BUY SRI LANKAN’’-a National Trade Fair organized by CDC Lanka Pvt Ltd for targeting the local buyers and traders to regain the market which was stuck due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The main aim of this event was to promote the economic development of the SME sector and to open trade opportunities for businesses to sell their products and services to local customers.
The event was an ideal platform for Fairtrade NAPP to participate to promote the concept and values of Fairtrade among the local consumers, potential stakeholders, and businesses in the country and to link our producers with prospective buyers and traders in Sri Lanka. It was also an opportunity for producers to network and access shared learning and inspiring business ideas that they always experience at such events. The Fairtrade participants included the Senior Advisor (National Network) and members of Stassen Natural Foods, Maskeliya Plantations, Tropiflora, MAL Organic, Parabowa, Eco Wave, St Anne’s, Ma’s Tropical food/SAFENET, and Mal Organic/AIOFA. The booth was managed by the Fairtrade Program Consultants in Sri Lanka and received approximately 400 visitors in the 03 days of the event who were briefed about Fairtrade and the certification advisory services provided by NAPP. The majority of the inquiries were related to certification for exporting other crops.
The Trade Fair proved to be a great platform for understanding the need to create more awareness about the core values of Fairtrade to the public since there was a genuine interest among the civilians to know more about the concept. There were processors who requested certification scopes for more industries such as aquaculture and fisheries, tourism, Hired Labour Standard for Coffee commodity, Handloom / Handicraft / Toys/ Homemade production, etc. There were many SME traders who required support to obtain international accreted Ethical certificates. Some Commercial partners such as specialty supermarkets also expressed their willingness to promote and sell Fairtrade products through their virtual platform or sale counters.
Overall, the team opined that the Sri Lankan market does have the potential to sell Fairtrade Products locally through the licensee process. There were visitors who took samples and enquired about the procurement process. It was felt that regular participation in such promotional trade fairs and events would help generate more awareness about Fairtrade among the potential consumers and businesses.
Some of the prospective meetings were discussion with the Chairman of the Export Development Board (EDB) to seek opportunities for local licensing, meeting with the Assistant Directress of Industrial Development Board (IDB), on the next step for Brussel’s project, important networking with the visitors from State Ministries such as Industrial Promotion and Tourism along with formal linkages with the organic and other certification body ‘Control Union’ Sri Lankan Office. New Traders/ Processors were identified for Coffee, Fishery, Handloom, Handicraft.
Pic : Fairtrade Program Consultants with Chairman of Export Development Board, Sri Lanka at the Fairtrade Booth
There were processors and Farmer leaders who were not aware of the Fairtrade Producer Support Relation Unit in Sri Lanka, hence this was an excellent opportunity for them to get the details on certification.