Lao tea growers brewing up marketing skills for int’l opportunities

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Lao tea producers will have more profitable business operations after learning valuable lessons from a cooperation project between the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Local tea growers gathered at the LNCCI in Vientiane yesterday to beef up their marketing skills and learn about international opportunities for their products.

The seminar and workshop was chaired by LNCCI President Mr Oudet Souvannavong, Acting Director General of the Trade Promotion Department, Mr Xaysomphet Norasingh, and Senior Advisor, UNDP, Mr Jerome Dubois-Mercent.

The meeting heard that at present Lao exports are for the most part supplied as relatively anonymous commodities with low price margins.

Consumers abroad do not recognise much competitive advantage in such products from Laos, nor do they regard the Lao origin of these products as a motivation to buy and to pay a price premium for them.

The general plan is to establish a strong consistent reputation for Lao produce across many quality sectors, if they offer real competitive international advantage.

A coherent Lao theme, repeated across several different categories, will create an impact on the foreign consumer and retail buyer that no individual sector could achieve on its own.

The first export project in the scheme will be top quality tea as a pilot sector to demonstrate the success of the concept.

The workshop aimed to provide Lao business from large to micro and including cooperatives with appropriate group structures and the necessary overseas expertise in sales, promotion and raising finance.

Participants learnt about the European market and why this market offers special potential for Laos and what is required to exploit this opportunity from tea and marketing experts in the UK.

The presentation included a market overview of tea consumers, history, the situation today and the trends that illuminate what consumers will be paying money for tomorrow, especially within the tea sector.

Also discussed were the ethical consumer, characteristics and trends generally and especially within beverages or tea and promoting Lao tea abroad, the recommended overall international brand positioning for Laos, Lao people and specifically tea, and a short report on a consumer research study and presentation of brand Laos.

The workshop also offered recommendations for the future development strategy of the private sector with tea from Laos to be seen by consumers as one of the world’s finest tastes, produced by a self-sustaining industry, trusted by international tea consumers and run by Lao, as well as short- and long-term strategies, and how to achieve sales of high value tea that already meets international standards as part of the short-term pilot project.

The workshop also covered how to certify, brand and promote for maximum effectiveness in the pilot and long-term and how individual producers or processors can promote their own distinctive brands and successfully compete with each other within the overall tea brand.