Small nations draw crowd, potential buyers at CIIE

The expo has hosted exhibitors from 30 least developed countries with an exhibition area of more than 4,000 square meters.

Though Timor Media Solution’s booth is only 9 square meters, it is one of the busiest at the ongoing third China International Import Expo in Shanghai.

From the very first day, visitors kept lining up in front of the booth for a taste of the civet coffee from Timor Leste, which is made and served by an on-site barista.

Jacky Li, who is in charge of the booth, said the enthusiasm is beyond his expectation.

“Because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, we did not expect to see many people here,” he said. “China has done well in containing the virus.”

This is the second year that the civet coffee from the Asian island country is being exhibited at the CIIE. As one of the finest coffee varieties in the world, Timor Leste’s coffee was already quite sought-after at last year’s expo.

Purely organic and tasty, Timor-Leste’s civet coffee is of high quality, but for a small country with a population of around 1.3 million, its annual output is only several hundred kilos.

Shortly after the second CIIE, a Timor-Leste National Pavilion was established in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone last year. Besides, a coffee industrial center was unveiled nine months later to commercialize the product further.

“The CIIE is a world-renowned platform, which allows not only China but the entire world to know more about Timor-Leste, thereby encouraging economic and trade exchanges, as well as attracting more investment for our country,” said Li, who is also the curator of the national pavilion.

He added that the organizer of the CIIE has provided great support for small countries like Timor-Leste. “For instance, though we only offer limited product types, they helped a lot with promotion.”

Bolivian exporters, who brought quinoa, beef and alpaca products all the way from the small South American nation, have also found the expo very fruitful.

Sandra Mabel Mariscal, business secretary to the chairman of the Bolivia Trade and Investment Department, said the department hopes to seek cooperation with large Chinese enterprises, local stores and supermarkets on agricultural commodities.

“To our delight, the Bolivian booth has attracted quite a few visitors and potential buyers,” she said, adding that the department has already locked in a cooperation plan of US$10 million covering the next five years.

China is Bolivia’s second-largest trading partner. In 2019, Bolivian exports to China stood at US$402 million, official data show.

Greechain, a Kenya-based exporter, has been to all three expos, and its booth has expanded from 9sqm in 2018 to 40sqm this year, along with the company’s booming business with China.

Rossella Lu, chairwoman of Greechain, said coffee, nuts and other local products from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa have been very popular among Chinese consumers.

“We’ve just signed an annual purchase contract worth US$10 million for dry fruits, nuts and avocado products at the CIIE,” she said.

Boosted by business opportunities in the Chinese market, Greechain has opened branches in Tanzania and Uganda and generated around 2,000 jobs in developing countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Lu.

Despite restrictions due to the virus, this year’s CIIE has attracted 2,600-odd global exhibitors and is expected to welcome 400,000 visitors, making it one of the world’s largest events in 2020.

Among them, more than 500 enterprises from 47 Belt and Road countries and regions have participated in this year’s CIIE. The expo has also hosted exhibitors from 30 least developed countries with an exhibition area of more than 4,000 square meters.

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