Sri Lanka DoC in breakthrough entry to world’s largest retail market


Sri Lanka’s Department of Commerce (DoC) has reported the country’s largest ever global trade linkage for Sri Lankan exports sector so far on 16 October in Colombo. The DoC also stressed that for the first time in a decade, Sri Lankan exports to this huge market has doubled.

“The visit of China National Agriculture Wholesale Market Association (CAWA) delegation to Sri Lanka opens a huge export opportunity for Sri Lankan agriculture and fresh produce sector. We also warmly invite member associations of CAWA to invest as joint ventures in Sri Lanka, transfer latest technology and partner with our Sri Lankan suppliers” stressed the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen on 15 October in Colombo. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the visiting CAWA delegation led by Chairman of CAWA Zengjun Ma, who is not only the leading personality in the massive US $ 2 Trillion Chinese agriculture and fresh produce wholesale market but also well known by Netherlands based World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) –the collective global voice for wholesale and retail fresh food markets from 44 countries across the world. CAWA is a national industry association approved by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs. Minister Bathiudeen was joined by DG Commerce Sri Lanka Ms Sonali Wijeratne and many other DoC officials during the 15 October meeting.

CAWA’s International Commissioner Jingjie Kong said: “CAWA has members in all provinces and municipalities across China accounting for 70% of the national wholesale total-which means we have an even bigger presence in China retail sector. All of the top 200 wholesale markets in China are members of CAWA. The CAWA managed annual wholesale turnover within China exceeds China Yuan/CNY 10 Billion or US $ 1.4 Trillion, which is 70% of the national wholesale total.”

“We are impressed by Sri Lankan fresh produce. As a result we are looking for trade and agriculture cooperation with Sri Lanka” announced CAWA Chairman Ma and added: “Not only the taste of Sri Lankan produce are better, also due to European Union standard compliance, the quality of Sri Lankan produce a very high. DoC has shown us some fresh produce such as coconut water and kernel processing in Sri Lanka and we are impressed due to their in-depth reach. Many such processing activities taking place in China are not so in-depth nor multi-level. It is very clear that Sri Lankan agriculture and fresh produce supplies can clearly expand in the huge Chinese market due to competitive pricing of Lankan products, features such as good taste, higher quality, and uniqueness. We are also impressed by DoC organised supplier meetings with in Colombo with such institutions as the Coconut Development Authority and Seafood Exporters’ Association of Sri Lanka (SEASL). Chinese consumer market is expanding in a big way and we suggest to prepare a good, dynamic pricing strategy for Lankan suppliers to China to win in our market. We invite an official DoC delegation to China with Lankan suppliers for B2B matchmaking. China has high level seafood processing technology that Sri Lanka can make use of.”

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), China retail sector is to become the leading retail sector in any economy in the world this year (2018), which, according to the Washington Post, is another “definitive marker of China’s rise to economic superpower status.” According to the Japanese bank Mizuho, “China is on track to hit just over $5.8 trillion retail sales in 2018.”

Minister Bathiudeen thanked Chairman Ma’s interest on Sri Lankan supplies and added: “We are also interested in a buyback system by Chinese buyers on our agri-produce. This will also enhance our exports and total trade with China.” According to DoC officials, Sri Lanka’s total trade with China increased by 3% last year to US $ 4.6 Billion from 2016’s $4.47 Billion. For the first time, Last year’s Lankan exports to China too showed a huge jump –doubling for the first time. This is an increase of 108% to US $ 415 Mn (in 2017) from 2016’s US$ 199 Mn. This is the first time in a decade that Sri Lankan exports to China have doubled. Last year’s leading Lankan exports to China were Ships & boats, apparel, Ceylon Tea and vegetable textile fibres. Interestingly, no significant exports of Lankan fresh produce to China is seen for 2016 and 2017-showing a huge untapped market awaiting in China for Lankan fresh produce. Imports from China to Sri Lanka declined by 2% in 2017 to US$ 4.19 Bn. This is the first decline in imports from China to Sri Lanka since 2011.

During the 15 October meeting, Minister Bathiudeen also instructed his DoC team to commence work on scheduling a strong Sri Lankan supplier delegation to meet CAWA members in China.

(Media Release – Ministry of Industry & Commerce)

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