Placing Foreign Marketplaces within SME Reach

16 Nov 2016

By blogging consultant James Brindley

Developing the SME sector is one of Uzbekistan’s priorities for economic growth, part of this effort related to building links with international business. Since its inception in 2011 the ‘Aid for Trade’ project has assisted small and medium businesses to participate in trade fairs like the ‘World Food Moscow 2016’ exhibition held in Moscow this past September.

This initial step onto the ‘international stage’ for any business can be daunting.

“It’s hard to think of any other setting in which the customer practically falls right into the company’s lap, so to speak. As is well known, making the first contact is the hardest part of making business,” said Alisher Sapaev – the Head of the Marketing Department of the ‘UzAgroExport’ Foreign Trade Company. A project partner, this business was established in 2016 to facilitate agricultural exports, and has been a major partner in arranging Moscow’s event.

“Out of all the marketing instruments available, trade fairs offer by far the widest range of functions. This is where exhibitors can conduct business, cultivate their image, look for business partners or examine the market,” Mr. Sapaev added.

Through its collaboration with its partners – particularly the ‘Uztadbirkoreksport” and ‘Uzagroexport’ Foreign Trade Companies – UNDP’s ‘Aid for Trade’ project is helping build the bridge into foreign markets. Uzbekistan’s fruit and vegetable produce has international acclaim and growing recognition, so it is natural that opportunities here will broaden. While Aid for Trade also supports the textile and light industry sector, agriculture has maintained its prominence.

The annual Moscow Trade Event is an opportunity for business and education. This year eight national producers fully participated in the event. Compared to the past events, three participants were women (one head of business and two participants), and two additional businesses had benefited from training on delivering products marketable overseas.

“We are rather a new company and at first were a bit hesitant whether we are ready for exporting,” said Mr. Bakhodirkhodia Abdurakhmanov, who represented LLC ‘Green Agro Food’ at the Moscow event.

‘Green Agro Food’s establishment has been an example of how Aid for Trade’s work can have a multiplier effect on business success. The company was initially founded in 2014 with just 20 employees, but has subsequently grown much larger. It’s been involved in trade and export promotion trainings focusing on meeting international produce standards, and developing better approaches to delivering exports.

Aid for Trade’s assistance has brought the company’s produce – green vegetables including lettuce, broccoli and cabbage - up to the Global G.A.P (Good Agricultural Practices) standard. This has made the produce’s quality better, and more enticing to overseas buyers.

The company’s participation at the Moscow Trade Exhibition capitalized on support from the project. Contracts totaling to 1.3 million have allowed the company to bring on 50 additional hectares of land, and to employ 100 additional seasonal workers.

“We are grateful to the Aid for Trade project for helping us build our confidence through strengthening our capacities to meet international standards for agro-produce, as well as developing a cohesive export marketing strategy,” Mr. Abdurakhamov said.

To date, the ‘Aid for Trade’ project and its partners have involved 60 businesses in more than 15 trade fairs, held as far away from home as China’s eastern cities, and has helped establish contracts worth 63 million USD.

“This advocacy for Uzbek SMEs is great for the businesses themselves, but it’s part of a greater promotion. We want to make sure the world’s business sector sees Uzbekistan as a region for investing and purchasing. The more the economy grows, the better our products become, the more attention we deserve,” said Mr. Shokhrukh Khodjaev, Head of the Marketing Department of the ‘Uztadbirkoreksport” Foreign Trade Company.

Uzbekistan’s fruit and vegetables makes the highest contributor to Uzbekistan’s agriculture, and provides livelihoods to millions of households through production, processing, transportation and consumption. This sector contributes to economic growth and helps earn currency needed to import other goods and services. Therefore, linking Uzbek producers with international counterparts through networking and trade fairs is important for giving national produce wider market presence.

Click here to learn more about the project’s work, and also check out its Facebook page.