…only thematic fairs meant for promoting local products and services and for export purposes shall be allowed
By Sonam Deki
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE) (then Ministry of Economic Affairs) had informed the general public that the conduct of consumer trade fairs and general fairs in the country involving external parties and imported goods shall not be allowed until further notice. Only thematic fairs meant for promoting local products and services and for export purposes shall be allowed with prior approval of the Department of Trade.
Loknath Sharma, Minister of Economic Affairs, stated, “We are discouraging such fairs because we want to create space for our local products to grow. Previously, there were numerous consumer trade fairs. We should also recognize that there are numerous shops that sell imported goods, so there is no need for general fairs. When we go shopping, we notice that most of the products are imported, while local products lag behind. Therefore, we support thematic fairs, local food fairs, and export-oriented products, be it at Dzongkhag or gewog level.”
“We are not stopping imports, which we cannot do, but we are stopping consumer trade fairs, which occasionally bring in too many non-essential goods and clog our everyday shops and markets. We don’t need trade fairs to help them; instead, trade fairs should feature new products and expose more and more domestic capacity,” he added.
Thimphu hosted six different trade fairs this year. Construction and wood Expo, construction Fair, Electric vehicles, Bhutanese handicraft and InfraCon 2022, Made in Bhutan, and Consumer Trade Fair were among them.
Similarly, Sangay Phuntsho, the manager of CSI (Cottage & Small Industry) Market said, “Allowing of only thematic fairs is one among many initiatives from government to promote local products. This would provide local entrepreneur with platform to exhibit their products to the public.”
CSI Market is the largest dedicated platform for products made and grown in Bhutan. CSI Market offers a wide range of products, which includes daily essential groceries, food, tea, edible items, craft products, and many products made by Bhutanese entrepreneurs. CSI market facilitates wholesale orders for all products with competitive rates and delivery services. It also provides customized gifts for all occasions.
The Manager of CSI Market added, “There are more than 150 locally produced product which is actively engaged in our markets. More than 300 entrepreneurs registered with our market but many withdrew as they were moving to Australia. In terms of pricing, many Bhutanese customers complain about the price being expensive. However, once the product reaches the outside market, price is not the issue as it gives more value addition since the products are organic. Price is also high in the outside market but it has its own value. In my six to seven years experience, we didn’t receive any complain about the price from global consumers.”
In order to promote local products, we mainly focus on digital marketing like creating digital advertisement and also participate in food fairs, he further added.
As per the annual Bulletin Exhibition Center, 2020, “The Exhibition Center at Changzamtog, Gongphel Lam, Thimphu is an initiative of the Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs to help promote the use of locally produced products and materials for construction and export purposes. The center was formally inaugurated on March 27, 2017 with high hopes to enhance export and achieve self-reliance”.
According to the Final Report on CSI market outside Bhutan, 2022, “Based on the current export data, the most commonly exported CSI products are Agro-based with 45% followed by Forest-based at 41%, Mineral-based export at 8% and Handicrafts/textiles products with only 6% of the total export”.