13 Nov 2023

Pacific businesses highlight challenges at China expo

11:41 am on 13 November 2023
2023 China Import Expo in Shangai.

2023 China Import Expo in Shangai. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule

Pacific businesses that attended an international import expo in Shanghai say meeting the supply demand is the main challenge for countries in the region trying to tap into the Chinese market.

Pacific nations were among about 150 countries that made the trip to Shanghai for the 2023 China International Expo held from 5-10 November.

Some of the products pushed showcased by Pacific businesses at the expo were Nambawan water, sea cucumber and jewellery.

Solomon Islands Ministry of Commerce director of investment Cornelius Donga said his main purpose for being there was to see and learn.

"The main concern is supply constraints we don't have the capacity to produce quantity and also quality to be able to supply the demand of the Chinese market," he said.

Donga's sentiment was also shared by representatives from other nations.

Niue Vanilla International managing director Stanley Kalaumi said the volume of production of products was important.

"When you get into China you have to have an open mind," Kalaumi said.

"Here in Shanghai we have a city of 20 million. That's a huge market if we tap into that the benefits are beyond.

"You've got to have the capacity to supply them because the first thing they'll probably ask is 'are you able to supply in a container of your products' and if you can that's good and if you don't you'll have to do your homework."

Kalaumi said other challenges were getting labelling to the required standard and having the ability to freight products to China.

Vanuatu's external trade director George Pakoa acknowledged there were road blocks.

"Challenges will be there but let's find solutions, lets collaborate government, private sector and people of Vanuatu," Pakoa said.

He said Vanuatu's fragmented islands would be difficult to navigate when it came to shipping.

"Looking at niche markets on a small volume we can still enter the Chinese market, we have seen this already."

Pakoa said Vanuatu's noni juice products and water had already entered the market.

Tonga's Ministry of Trade and Economic Development senior policy analyst 'Eva Liava'a was showcasing coffee and vanilla products that have not yet been exported.

Liava'a said Tonga was already exporting tuna and squash to China.

According to the event organisers, the expo attracts over a million visitors daily.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu has been participating at the expo since 2018, when the first edition of the event was held.

Vanuatu's Ambassador to Beijing Denis Nai said "e-commerce is the best solution to enter the Chinese market".

Nai said e-commerce has the advantage of eliminating middlemen and the products are much cheaper.

2023 China Import Expo in Shangai.

Vanuatu at the China International Expo. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule