DESPITE having covered numerous events throughout her 24 years in journalism, this writer still found the China Asean Expo held in Nanning, Guangxi, China, to be a new experience for her.
Besides the large scale of the exhibition, the huge turnout on the last day was something to contend with.
Not having bought a ticket beforehand, the writer had to trudge round the Nanning Convention and Exhibition Centre to the exit gate where two long lines of people had gathered.
Inside the exhibition halls, among the most popular exhibits appeared to be coffee. The crowd showed a lot of interest in trying out the variety of brands under the broad name of “Asean Coffee.”
Upstairs, where crowds thronged, it was hard to squeeze in between the stalls at the “Asean Commodities Malaysia” pavilion. All sorts of products, ranging from durians, coffee, fruit drinks, curry puffs to solar heaters, were on display.
The previous eight expos attracted 316,000 manufacturers, US$11.68bil in trade volume, US$49.17bil in international investment, and 475,902 yuan in domestic investment, according to expo secretariat secretary-general Zheng Junjian, as quoted by China-Asean Panorama.
Those who had put up stalls at the expo held recently had interesting stories to tell.
Marketing executive Ken Wong was in Nanning for a week to promote frozen durians of the “Musang King” species. This is the second time his company was taking part in an expo in China; his first was in Guangzhou.
“We are just starting in China. We are looking for distributors and manufacturers for our frozen durian and durian paste products,” he said.
The company's 380-acre orchard with a processing factory is based in Raub, Pahang, Founded last year under Desaria Food Sdn Bhd by Malaysian Chan Wai Kong who has businesses in Indonesia, Desaria's “Musang King” and “D24” durian products are sold in major hypermarkets in Malaysia, including Carrefour.
“There are much cheaper durian products in China. But we aim to create our own blue ocean by introducing fresh and unique products,” said Wong.
Normally, 400g of frozen durian is sold at 238 yuan but it was going for 150 yuan at the expo.
“We need to do more branding and publicity in China,'' Wong said, adding that within five days at the expo, the company had made 50 business contacts.
Consumption of coffee is fast catching on in China.
Lu Jing Wen, the distributor of Old Ipoh white coffee, can testify to that. His company, Nanning High Quality Life Trading Co Ltd, has attended the expo for the past three years, starting with sales of 200 boxes to 1,500 this year.
“In the first year that we were here, there were only three or four white coffee booths. It grew to nine in the second year and 33 in the third year,” he said.
This year, he hasn't had the time to count as coffee booths were sprouting not only at the Asean Commodities Malaysia hall upstairs but also at the Asean Coffee pavilion downstairs.
Lu's company has five outlets in Nanning and is exploring opportunities in other food and beverage products from Malaysia.
“I do a lot of networking and help other distributors of white coffee in the spirit of the China/Malaysia relationship,'' said Lu.
A Malaysian, Can Lim, moved to Guangzhou 10 years ago with 1,000 yuan in his pocket. Formerly in the entertainment line, Lim opened shop selling various products from food to cleaning products.
“Life has been good,” said Lim who has not regretted his move. “When sales of one product is stable, I will add on another.''
This is the third time he is marketing cleaning products at the expo under Guangzhou Kajes Cleaner Co Ltd.
It is exciting to see increasing consumer interest.
“Consumers now have higher purchasing power, Sometimes, it looks like they are afraid we won't sell to them,'' Lim quipped, adding that the moment a crowd left the front of his booth, it would be quickly filled up by others.
Lim intends to return to Malaysia to start some businesses for his family to manage.
Besides the expo, many things are done on a large scale in highly-populated China. Examples are the zoo, People's Park and museum of ethnic nationalities in Nanning.
The People's Park is not only home to a collection of flora but also museums displaying exhibits of the animal and sea life in the region as well as stones from ancient times.
A large lake, which is full of carp, is also used for boating. The well-visited park has a large children's playground.
The zoo has a small theme park where crowds line up for free rides. On weekends, it can take more than an hour to get a ride on the roller coaster. Longan, lychee and mango trees are among the many types of trees providing shade for visitors.
The shopping areas are also jam-packed on weekends, from the upmarket area around Parkson to the wholesale centres.
All in, these represent part of the bustling expansion in Nanning where tall buildings dot the skyline, most of them visible from atop the popular mountain spot called “Ching Shan” where devotees offer prayers at various temples housing statues of Buddha and one of Confucius.
At the same time as the city is transforming, a lot of efforts are being carried out to keep it clean and well-landscaped while education is ongoing in health and hygiene.
Associate editor Yap Leng Kuen notes that the mighty Yong Jiang river that flows through Nanning offers scenic spots, especially where there are bridges of different shapes.
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