The Bulgarian Trade Promotion Agency (BTPA) won the World TPO Award 2004 for the Best TPO from a Transition Economy.
In September 2004, the BTPA and the Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises were merged to form theBulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA).
BTPA applied under the category of Enhancement of the export capacity and/or performance of local industries. It sought recognition of its Food Industry Export Promotion Programme (FIEPP). FIEPP was designed to remedy and address structural weaknesses in the food sector of the Bulgarian economy.
BTPA drew on previous research and studies financed under a variety of bilateral and multilateral programmes (such as PHARE, HEPO, GTZ and others) and took advantage of tools, such as ITC’s Trade Performance Index, to identify food and food processed products as sectors with potential for future investment and export growth in Bulgaria. Within that broadly defined category, BTPA further narrowed the choice into key sub-sectors, such as canned vegetables and fruits, honey products, spices, dairy products and wine.
Working with the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, BTPA identified the nature of activities to be carried out in support of each sub-sector. BTPA held regular meetings with representatives of private sector companies and their representative organisations to plan implementation of the agreed activities.
BTPA’s research identified the following weaknesses:
To address these deficiencies, BTPA allocated five staff and €251,000 of its own budget to the FIEPP. BTPA drew on a training project with Canada, an electronic business centre project with Greece, and trade fairs participation programmes with GTZ in Germany and USAID to target resources to FIEPP. BTPA put in place services, which included:
In-house databases were created with information about export and import commodities, duties and taxes, export and import regimes, non-tariff barriers, suitable fairs and exhibitions, quality standards, etc. BSMEPA was working on the further development and enlargement of the BTPA database to include new information about SME and business legislation. BTPA built a database of Bulgarian companies able and willing to provide competitive products together with foreign importing companies, traders and databases. The aim was to put together potential partners. Under BSMEPA, this was to be transformed into a portal and more fully supported in English as well as in Bulgarian.
BTPA arranged for trainers to work in the food industries. Training sessions covered business management and foreign trade issues and were constructed from a processed food and wine perspective. The aim was for the trainers to train other trainers, i.e. a cascading approach.
BTPA took abroad missions of Bulgarian business people and held within Bulgaria B2B Forums at which foreign buyers could meet Bulgarian producers. These events were partially subsidised by BTPA, which did not charge for its staff time. There was participation by groups of Bulgarian companies at international trade fairs, such as Foodex in Japan, London International Wine and Spirits Fair, SIAL in Paris and ANUGA in Cologne, Germany. Around 70% of the costs of participation were borne by BTPA (i.e. renting a fair stand with a standard construction and equipment, but not any travel costs).
In developing FIEPP, BTPA found that it took longer to achieve its objectives, as development among Bulgarian companies was slower than expected due to a lack of reasonably priced working capital and because of turnover in the number of staff available for training.
Transition to market economy
Foreign best practice business models were successfully adapted and long-term commercial linkages and trade relations were developed.
BTPA processed over 500 enquiries for trade and potential partners in the target sectors.
240 firms participated in specialist trade fairs in 2002-2004. Whereas only a small number reported signing contracts at the time of the exhibition, 50% of the companies anticipated gaining contracts at a later date. A total of 2115 Bulgarian companies took part in missions abroad or in B2B Forums in Bulgaria in 2002-2004. Foreign trade statistics for 2002 showed an increase of 49% in the value of exports of processed food compared with 2001 and 3% for wine. 2003 and 2004 showed further increases of 5% and 71% in the area of processed food and 70% and 175% in the case of wine compared with the immediately preceding year.
BTPA reinforced staff skills in its organisation, by:
50 trainers in foreign trade issues for processed food and wine became available. Representatives of 120 companies were trained in export marketing for the same sectors. Printed guides were prepared on export marketing for SMEs, particularly in the food sector, and an export guide of Bulgarian wine.
It would be possible for other TPOs with good information about its country’s supply capability in a particular sector to target its human and other resources, at home and abroad, in support of that sector’s exporters.