Photo: Royal Bhutanese Embassy, Canberra

Exporting from Bhutan to Australia

The Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra, Australia with the support of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Western Sydney University (WSU), commissioned a guide for export from Bhutan to Australia in the form of a case study titled “Expanding Horizons: A Guide for Export Growth from Bhutan to Australia” on 13 October 2023 by Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji.

The main objective of the guide is to showcase a niche product company, Bhutan Blossoms’ export journey to Australia, and highlight how it resolved the many challenges it faced along the way. It is a basic guide for similar businesses in Bhutan that produce niche agricultural products which could have a market in Australia. Such agri-entrepreneurs can use the guide to anticipate, plan and navigate challenges in their export journey to Australia.

The ministry aims to provide a one-stop information source for agri-businesses in Bhutan that wishes to explore the Australian market. It outlines a checklist that exporters can follow and links official and reliable sources of information for exporters to refer to when they plan to export their products to Australia.

The ministry said that it should help them understand the Australian market, its regulations and requirements, and strategize accordingly.

The ministry intends to keep this website as dynamic as possible, and periodically undertake revisions to update information.

“Given the limited access for Bhutanese products into the international markets, collaboration and knowledge sharing with international partners including other countries would help Bhutan in adopting some of the best practices, methods and ways from production to packaging, leveling and marketing the products.”

“Moreover, with Bhutan processing to access WTO, collaborations and knowledge sharing would only become more important and relevant for Bhutan in coming years.”

“Understanding the target market, its requirements, and consumers is crucial for successful business planning. Small businesses require support from government or other entities, and branding is crucial. Collaborating with exporters in distant markets like Australia can increase export volume and reduce shipping costs, boosting profit margins.”

Bhutan Blossoms has seen increased demand in developed economies like Australia, leading to business expansion and recovery from the pandemic. In 2019, the company earned net revenue of Nu 2.8 million, 60 percent from Bhutan sales. In 2022, it generated a higher direct income of Nu 4.7 million.

Bhutan’s unique brand proposition, rooted in sustainability and authenticity, makes it attractive to markets like Australia. This case study aims to encourage other businesses to explore these markets and diversify their exports in value-added products.

The ministry and its embassies and missions abroad facilitate trade and business with other countries, assisting Bhutanese exporters in promoting markets, liaising with importers, providing market information, and facilitating negotiations to resolve trade-related issues.

The government and its relevant agencies have been making concerted efforts to explore niche markets for Bhutanese products to facilitate exports to other countries as well. If the current case studies prove to be successful, the ministry plans on getting proper standardization and certification of our products to access the international market.

In order to remove export barriers, the products have to meet the standards and safety regulations in the international market. It is important for Bhutan to invest in the development of necessary infrastructure including sophisticated testing equipment.

Therefore, in view of the importance of this, MoFAET facilitates discussions between the Bhutanese certifying agencies (BFDA & BSB) and corresponding agencies of trading partner.

After the embassy opened in late 2021, it was approached by a former Australian Volunteer, Jonathon Wolfe, who was involved in connecting Bhutan Blossoms with Harris Farm Markets and initiated the first trial of selling Bhutan Blossoms products in HFM stores in Sydney.

He pitched this idea to the embassy and had secured the Western Sydney University’s School of Business’ agreement to support the actual drafting of the case study. However, the project could only go ahead if the embassy was able to secure funds to repurpose the case study’s findings into associated materials like the website, video and booklet to make it accessible to a wide range of audience.

Given the RGOB’s financial situation, the embassy had to look elsewhere for funding throughout 2022. In early 2023, it was finally able to secure funding from ICIMOD, and thus began the project. The project would not have been possible without Western Sydney University and ICIMOD’s support.

Bhutan Blossoms faced challenges in exporting to Harris Farm Markets, including high shipping costs, long delivery times, food safety regulations, rebranding, and production enhancement. The case underscores the importance of supporting small businesses, with government, non-government, and development agencies providing significant support, reducing initial export costs.

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