PT&I helps access China’s markets for food and timber
Pacific Islands Trade & Invest’s China office recently collaborated with the European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project to explore opportunities for Pacific Island enterprises in the vast Chinese marketplace.<!--more-->
FACT team leader Dr Lex Thomson visited Beijing in March, and in consultation with PT&I’s office in Beijing and Trade Commissioner Sam Savou, took stock of the opportunities for Pacific exporters to enter high-value niche markets for products such as out-of-season tropical fruits, organic coffee, honey, fish and specialty hardwood timbers.
[caption id="attachment_3245" align="alignright" width="138" caption="Sam Savou (Trade Commissioner-China, PT&I) and Yolanda Jiang (Export Development Officer, PT&I) at a fresh food market in Beijing, China. Photo courtesy: SPC."]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/SAM-SAVOU-PITI1.jpeg"><img class="size-full wp-image-3245" title="SAM SAVOU (PITI)1" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/SAM-SAVOU-PITI1.jpeg" alt="" width="138" height="104" /></a>[/caption]
However, along with those opportunities come a number of challenges such as transport logistics, trade protocols, strong competition from Southeast Asia and the need for efficient marketing.
At present, round logs from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands dominate Pacific Island timber exports. But though their volumes are rising, the value derived from the exports remains low but the outlook for higher value timber products into China appears promising.
‘There is major market potential and unmet demand for these woods, but current opportunity to export from Pacific Island countries is limited by the supply of mature trees,” Dr Thomson says.
Mr Savou says that island nations need to market more effectively, emphasising the high quality of their timbers with Chinese importers and consumers, to achieve better returns.
There is also a potentially lucrative and rapidly evolving market for various organic products from the Pacific region. Produce with shelf life such as chilli paste, honey and coffee have potential, says Dr Thomson.
PT&I is currently facilitating exports into the coffee market, starting with a single PNG supplier who will supply green coffee beans to a Chinese roaster.
Mr Savou considers that the export of out-of-season tropical fruits such as papaya and mango has commercial potential in markets in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai during the Chinese winter months of November to March. He pointed to Produce Specialities Limited, which successfully exported papaya to Hong Kong prior to the 2012 floods in Fiji. Outside this winter period, though, PICs would face stiff competition from neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.
There might also be potential for yam exports but this will need further market assessment.
Organic meats such as free-range lamb and pork also have market potential. On a side note, there may be a lucrative market for mongoose meat from Fiji in South China but there is a need to see whether this is legal, as the mongoose sub-species native to China is endangered. The small Asian mongoose is popular food for some Chinese in Fiji.
Fish and seafood exports do well in China. Coral trout (known as donu in Fiji) retails for ten times the Fiji price in China, while bêche-de-mer has a long-established high value market. Going back in history, bêche-de-mer and sandalwood were two products that attracted Europeans and others to the Pacific.
(Adapted from a media release from SPC, Suva)