Due to the difficulties of organizing physical export promotion programmes during this pandemic situation, the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) in collaboration with Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lankan Missions overseas has initiated online sessions to enable foreign buyers and Sri Lankan exporters meet via virtual platforms with the objective of creating trade linkages between Sri Lanka and the rest of the world, as it is imperative to sustain the nation’s export promotional activities in spite of severe challenges caused by COVID-19.
Numerous B2B meetings were conducted by the EDB under this initiative in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Missions overseas and foreign trade chambers. The B2B meetings were conceptualised based on the products that have potential to access the respective markets. The Sri Lankan Missions overseas took the responsibility to introduce potential buyers/ importers for the selected products and the EDB coordinated with both the Sri Lankan Missions and Sri Lankan exporters to organize online meetings in an effective manner.
Initial webinars were conducted prior to the B2B sessions to make exporters aware of the market conditions/trends, tariffs, taxes and other regulations as well as available concessions through free trade agreements and other preferential trade arrangements in the particular market areas. This series of meetings covered all the regions -the Americas, Asia, the EU, and the Middle East for the identified potential product sectors.
Targeting the Americas region, B2B events were carried out with buyers mainly from the USA, Brazil and Chile for product sectors such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tea, cinnamon, curry leaves, coconut oil, beer, fabrics, lingerie, shapewear, coir-related products. As a result, some exporters are currently discussing with foreign buyers to send samples while few of them are making arrangements for their first orders.
Another virtual business meeting was conducted between six buyers from Qoo10 online platform and Sri Lankan companies related to kids’ stationary and educational toys in partnership with the Sri Lankan High Commission in Singapore and Singapore Business Federation. Sri Lankan exporters in apparel and spice sectors benefitted by a B2B meeting programme jointly organized by the EDB and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Poland in collaboration with the Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Poland.
For the Japanese market, three B2B sessions were held for coir-related products, cocopeat and ayurveda and herbal cosmetics.
Promoting agriculture-related products
Several B2B meetings took place with the participation of Sri Lankan companies in the spices and concentrates sector with buyers from the USA. Further, participant exporters benefited from the B2B events organized in collaboration with the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK for the ayurveda and herbal cosmetics, coconut milk and vanilla product sectors.
A number of B2B meetings were conducted for the Sri Lankan coconut-based products with the Turkish buyers for sub-sectors such as desiccated coconut, cocopeat, activated carbon and coconut kernel products. Preliminary discussions have been held with the Sri Lankan Mission in South Africa to organize B2B meetings for edible coconut products, coir and growing mediums. Fruitful and productive business meetings were organized for coconut products and spices by the EDB and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Jordan.
Creating opportunities for industrial products
A virtual B2B meeting for the apparel industry for products such as men's wear, women's wear, kids wear, rainwear, hats etc. was conducted during the last two months, and many Sri Lankan companies reaped benefits by the meetings they had with buyers from France and Poland.
A business meeting session was also conducted between Sri Lankan boat building companies and a boat builder from Denmark. This was followed by additional meetings for the boat building sector in different markets and consequent to it, there is an ongoing discussion to form a joint venture between a Turkish ship builder and a reputed Sri Lankan ship building company in the near future. Furthermore, proposals from the Sri Lankan companies were shared with an Omani party to explore suitable collaboration in the boat building sector. B2B meetings for printing and packaging products were carried out with two buyers from India with the support of the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi.
Focusing on high-value exports, the EDB in collaboration with theirs Lankan Embassy in Thailand organized a meeting to create linkages between SLINTEC and a Thai auto manufacturer and a battery manufacturer to promote graphene for Lead Acid and Lithium Ion batteries. It is believed that these discussions will create more business collaboration with Thailand enabling Sri Lanka to penetrate this emerging market.
The EDB and the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai organized a virtual B2B session with the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers' Association from 05th to 09th October in which 66 B2B meetings were held with 10 Sri Lankan companies. Further, business sessions were conducted among Sri Lankan electronics and electrical sector manufactures/exporters with buyers from Germany in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Germany.
Promotions for the export services sector
A key online event was held in August for the ICT/BPM sector in which leading Sri Lankan start-ups and product engineering companies successfully pitched for clients in Japan. The main objective of this event was to introduce 07 start-ups and product engineering companies to the Japanese market and create business linkages to strengthen Japan – Sri Lanka Business partnership. Forty-five (45) Japanese participants attended the event.
In order to highlight the potential of Sri Lanka’s logistics services, two webinars were held connecting the Sri Lankan missions in countries from the Far East and Europe. Hub operators who participated in those webinars are in communication with the Sri Lankan missions seeking further opportunities to connect with the business community in the targeted markets.
Forthcoming online B2B programmes
The EDB is eagerly exploring options to conduct B2B programmes with China for multi products in collaboration with the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou, China, and Yunnan Commercial Office in Colombo. Additionally, the details of interested companies have been shared with the Bank of China for the online match-making event which will be conducted to coincide with the 3rd China International Import Expo in November 2020.
At the same time, discussions are ongoing to organize B2B programmes for the identified products such as automobile components, spices (red pepper varieties), natural rubber, kitchen utensils, porcelain products for the South Korean market and coconut, tea, betel leaves and rubber products for the Pakistan market. Another program is being planned for the Turkey market for multi sectors in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Embassy and the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) while a separate interactive virtual conference followed by B2B meetings will be held by companies in the country’s logistics sector for the Federation of Indian Exporters Organization on 10th November.
As the online platform is the best mechanism to promote exports in the international market owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EDB will discuss with other Sri Lankan overseas missions to organize more webinars as well as B2B programmes.