EU Supports Capacity Building To Improve Bhutan’s Export Diversification
Bhutanese products selected for export and market diversification are ginger, turmeric, mushrooms and yak dairy.
By Phub Dem | Kuensel
Bhutan’s export to the international market is limited. On top of that, it is highly concentrated (about 80 percent) consisting of only ten commodities, mostly destined for the Indian market.
The trade concentration, according to experts, leaves the country in a vulnerable position, in economic terms.
Aims of the EU-Bhutan Trade Support Project
Aimed at diversifying Bhutan’s export for economic growth and poverty reduction, the EU-Bhutan Trade Support Project held a two day workshop in Thimphu to train some Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) entrepreneurs.
The project which is worth EUR 4 million is funded by the European Union and is a part of the EU Regional Multi-annual Indicative Programme for Asia 2014-2020, while the ITC is the implementing agency of the project.
National Project Coordinator of EU-Bhutan Trade Support, Kiran Subedi said that the project specifically emphasised on increasing export and export diversification which can contribute to the implementation of the “Brand Bhutan” initiative.
The focus was to build capacities in the formulation and implementation of trade and investment, the export of high-value horticulture, handicraft and textile products.
The products were selected according to their potential for value addition, market demand and their impact on the livelihood of women and youth.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture Ministry, and the Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts, Kiran Subedi said that the project is expected to enhance access to trade and market information through the setting up of a one-window platform for both exporters and importers.
Preparing products from Bhutan to meet international market standards for export
Meeting technical and quality requirements in the international market place are essential for selling products. Quite often, export of Bhutanese products is restricted or even rejected because they lack standard and certification, according to a few participants.
However, experts are of the view that exporters have to ensure that their products meet the mandatory technical specifications of the target market in order to protect consumers’ health, safety, and the environment.
Senior Adviser of Export Quality Management (International Trade Centre), Khemraj Ramful said that to access overseas markets, exporters have to obtain information about the technical requirements of the importing country.
The small and medium scale entrepreneurs were also briefed on various elements of a quality infrastructure that comprises the following: Standardisation, Conformity, Assessment, Accreditation, and Metrology.
According to market studies done, Bhutanese products selected for export and market diversification are ginger, turmeric, mushrooms and yak dairy.
Turmeric is grown in the Southern parts of Bhutan. Hailed as the 'Indian Saffron' for its beautiful golden brown colour, turmeric has been perceived as the panacea for many ailments for centuries.
Photo: Bhutan Natural
Small and Medium Enterprises associated with these products were trained on basic requirements when exporting such products.
The workshop also provided information on the advantages that could be derived from the business community as well as the WTO Agreements on technical barriers to trade.
The founder of Freed Meat, Dorji Dema said that she had no idea about certification and other processes when she started her business. She recalled how her product was rejected when she tried to export it to a Japanese company.
“After that, I sent my products for testing and I now have BAFRA certification.”
The platform is expected to provide opportunities for the participating companies to showcase their products, and to build new networks with EU buyers and importers. The selected SME produce will be taken to Paris next year.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.