Mekong Institute (MI) undertakes the second phase of its project with the Trade Facilitation Office (TFO) Canada with a series of workshops in August and September for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the specialty agro-food sector in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. The workshops were organized following the market entry studies conducted by the MI and TFO team early this year. This second component of the project sets out to further strengthen knowledge of the SMEs and boost their capacity to integrate into the global markets by providing in-depth information on the Canadian market, including practical information on how to export, services of TFO Canada that SMEs can avail and use, consumer trends and market access environment of the agro-food sector, and practical market entry recommendations, among others.
The first workshop was organized in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on August 27, 2018 with over 52 SMEs in attendance. A second workshop was held on August 30 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, gathering 68 representatives from SMEs specializing in the production and/or export of specialty food products. This was followed by workshops in Myanmar on September 3 in Mandalay with 40 SMEs joining; and on September 5 in Yangon, bringing together 46 SMEs. Many of these SMEs produce and sell rice and fruit products, sugar, tea, and coffee.
Back to back one-on-one consultations with SMEs were also organized on the next day following the workshops in the respective cities. The consultations aimed to offer further specialized advisory support to selected SMEs to enhance their commercial relations with potential Canadian buyers. Fourteen SMEs joined the consultation in Phnom Penh, 12 from Vientiane, and 9 and 17 SMEs from Mandalay and Yangon, respectively.
The workshops were led by the MI team from the Trade and Investment Facilitation (TIF) Department together with representatives from relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce. In the Cambodia and Lao workshops, a representative from the Embassy of Canada was also in attendance.
The workshops are part of MI’s project with TFO Canada on ‘Making Trade Work for Development: Export Capacity Support for Small Exporters from Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries in Specialty Agro-Food Value Chains’ or ESCAF. The project seeks to empower SMEs in the three countries in the Mekong by enhancing their market research capacities, fostering peer exchange among exporters and connecting them with Canadian buyers.
Following the workshops, MI and TFO Canada will be providing training and advisory support to selected SMEs from the three countries to prepare them for a market familiarization mission to Canada.