Mixed Response For Malaysian Exhibitors At Canton Fair

The first phase of the spring Canton Fair ended Sunday on a mixed note for Malaysian exhibitors with many lamenting a drop in both international and local buyers due to tight security screening.

According to Malaysian External Trade Development (Matrade) commissioner in Guangzhou, Roslina Long, some of the companies, in particular those dealing with household electrical appliances, had made some deals.

Many of the 53 Malaysian exhibitors, the biggest international presence at the fair, were taking part for the first time in the fair which concluded its first phase (April 15-20) Sunday.

"Compared to previous years, the fair seemed slower because clearly, there were less buyers. The Malaysian companies will have to do a lot of follow up to get business," Roslina said.

A week before the fair opened, organisers announced that to gain admission, all exhibitors, local buyers and journalists must show they have a certified crime free record from the police as part of increased security.

The fair, held each spring and autumn, opened to foreign exhibitors for the first time last year but the international pavilion is held only in the first of two phases each time.

Buyers in the first phase of the spring fair are mostly for industrial hardware, tools and household appliances. Buyers in the second phase starting April 25 will be more from the food, tea, kitchenware, sports goods, office supplies, toys and decorations.

A more successful company, Berjaya Steel Product Sdn Bhd, which specialises in food service and refrigeration equipment, continued to see brisk enquiries for the second year.

"Last year, we reached deals with a dozen buyers and they were all international. It is the same this year and overall, it has been good," said Berjaya Steel export manager Esther Chong.

But it was less encouraging for food companies like Makmur Malaya Sdn Bhd which is seeking to break into the China market with its canned food like cockles, squid, chicken and baked beans.

"It would be good if we are allowed to exhibit in the second phase because food buyers will come only then," said Lee Chee Hian, group general manager for Makmur Malaya Sdn Bhd.

Others like Hai-O Enterprise Bhd, an established name in Malaysia for traditional Chinese medicines, wine and health products, and confectioner maker Sweetkiss Food Industry, are not just depending on the fair.

"We have recently opened a trading subsidiary in Guangzhou to market our range of products," said Chan Man Chi, marketing director of Hai-O (Guangzhou) Trading Ltd.

Tee Kok Leong, managing director of Sweetkiss which secured two container orders last year from the Middle East, is considering opening in Guangzhou as well.

"We have been approached this time by distributors from Shenzhen and Shanghai. Due to the strict laws on food imports here, we are thinking of setting up a company here to pack our products for the local market," he said.

Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce president Datuk Yong Ah Pwi said Malaysian small and medium enterprises should look at the Canton Fair to break into the China and also international market.

"It is well established and there are thousands of buyers. The Chinese are getting richer and they want foreign brands while Malaysian companies can also reach out to international buyers from more than 200 countries," he said.

"There may be other brands of other countries also selling similar products but Made-in-Malaysia is recognized for quality, that is our biggest advantage," he said, adding that Malaysian-made industrial tools and equipment were in demand in countries like Japan.

The deadline to take part in the annual fair is two months earlier and companies can contact the Chamber, he said.

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