by Waleska Nascimento
Mrs. Rose Marie Bedecarratz is the Trade Commissioner of Chile and Head of the Economic Department, ProChile, of the Embassy of Chile in ThailandCommercial Counsellor and Head of Economics and Trade Office (ProChile) in Bangkok. She is a Chilean expert in the SE Asian market with over 20 years of experience. Below in an interview with this intelligent, smart and delightful lady she tells us about Chile, its products and the event at CentralWorld where there will be an exhibition and lots of free tasting of the very best foods from Chile.
For those who know Chile, it is a wonderful country. The nature and scenery is phenomenal and as for the food and wine products, the dried and natural fruits, wines, the seafood, especially the much desired salmon, are all products of high quality flavour for export.
Please tell us a little about Chile and what products are most exported from the country.
Chile is a long and thin strip of land located in the Southwest of South America. Its 4,300 kilometres of coastline are filled with a variety of fish and shellfish that grow in outstanding climate conditions, due to the quality and coldness of the flowing waters from Antarctic. The best part is that the Andes Mountains, the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama Desert make Chile a phytosanitary island, which allows to produce all of our products with less risks of pests and diseases.
The Chilean Patagonia, located at the very South of Chile, is from where our greatest products come from. The Patagonia is worldwide recognised for its extraordinary pristine waters, beautiful glaciers and wonderful natural landscapes, which create the perfect environment for our salmon, sea bass and mussels to be produced.
At the moment, Chile is the second larger exporter of salmon in the world, and the number one exporter of frozen salmon to Thailand. As for mussels, Thailand imported almost 4,000 tons from Chile last year.
Thai consumers demand delicious and healthy protein options that are nutritious and sustainably sourced, which is exactly what Chile offers worldwide.
As for fresh fruit, Chile is the number one exporter of cherries, blueberries and grapes in the world. Regarding cherries, which season is starting right now, we are the second larger exporter to Thailand.
During the 20 years working in the SE Asian market, what were the biggest economic challenges, and for being a professional woman representing a South American country, faced by you. (We cannot fail to mention the importance of women’s empowerment in a world economic environment usually dominated by men).
I would say that the biggest and permanent challenge that our institution faces is to enhance small and medium enterprises and give them the tools and support they need to export to SEA markets. Big exporters can deal with the difficulties of this market in terms of logistics, export volumes and demand, and most of they usually master the know-how, but most of the Chilean small and medium enterprises are new to these markets so they need us to know if they are well prepared and ready to succeed. This is our real challenge and for what we work hard every year at ProChile, to strengthen small and medium businesses for them to grow and develop more export capacity.
As for the second question, about being a woman in an environment usually dominated by men, I think I have been very lucky you know? ProChile is a very good place for women, there is absolutely no difference on how they treat you, the respect is the same. In my work overseas, I guess it has always been good, I have never faced any struggles because of the fact that I am a woman and people have always respected me for the job I do, which is exactly what women around the world are trying to promote: that there should be no difference in the way we are treated or paid because of the fact that we are women. We should be judged for what we do, for our capacities and professionalism, not for being a woman or a man.
To me, the challenge was actually more personal, since I have a family and they have always been my top priority. When you work overseas and you are constantly moving from one country to another, it is a challenge to keep your family together and try to live the most normal life you can. In this sense I am very lucky to have one that have always supported me and the job I do. They always come with me to all destinations and their support has been key to thrive personally and professionally.
ASEAN (Association of SE Asian Nations) is a great economic partner to give support needed to all countries that want to make business in the region. What are the best initiatives promoted for development, cooperation and partnership with Chile? May I ask what is the level of Chilean products acceptance and what are the favoured imports from the SE Asian markets?
As the Chilean Trade Commission in Thailand, we are always working to strengthen the existing commercial relations between Chilean exporters and Thai importers, as well as finding new and effective ways to find new importers for our huge variety of products.
It goes without saying that importers are of outstanding value for us, since they are the ones that sell our products to final costumers. In this sense, we try to include them in every event and promotion activity that we carry out. Being cooperative and working together is the best way to enhance our relationship and find new and better ways to increase the local demand of the Chilean products. We work hard to come out with win-win programmes in which all parties end up satisfied.
As for initiatives, we focus our work in diverse matching activities aiming to connect Thai importers with Chilean exporters, as well as a lot of different promotion events in which we look to raise awareness about Chilean food among final consumers and the Thai market in general. In the first case, we usually work with regional strategies in SE Asia, picking different seasons to promote and focus on particular products and offers, such as the wine tasting we are going to host on November 25 at the Marriott Surawongse.
Regarding the Chilean food that Thais enjoy the most, we have seen a great trend in healthy food, which is very good news for our exporters and importers, because this is exactly what Chile offers: fresh, healthy, highly nutritious, tasty food. Anyways, our number one product here in Thailand is the Chilean salmon: if you had salmon in a restaurant in the last few days it was probably Chilean.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, mainly, tourism and exports were affected. But what is your strategic vision for this challenge to be overcome?
Despite the impact the pandemic has had on various aspects of life, Chile’s industry and supply chains have remained active throughout these months, complying with the highest safety protocols and international commitments, while implementing a series of measures to maintain the standards that make our products available in the best restaurants and cuisines around the world.
As for business, as soon as we realised that this was going to be a hard year for the global economy and exports worldwide, we knew that a different approach would be required. As you may know, Chile has 56 Trade Commissions (ProChile offices) in different countries around the world, and the SEA countries are not an exception. In this context, we decided to work on a regional strategic approach in which we can work as regional teams, following almost the same schedule in terms of promotion activities and mainly focusing in e-commerce. This was a great challenge but we needed to figure out a way to take the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate and be the first choice, and we found it in e-commerce.
With the pandemic and social distancing, many industries began to slow down, however, the healthy food industry, which is a big trend in Thailand today, has propelled thanks to the increased trend of consumers to order food through e-commerce channels. This is why our main strategy is to prioritise promotional activities and raise awareness among internet users in SEA, and it is going very good so far.
From November 4th to November 8th, 2020, ProChile ASEAN in Bangkok promoted an exhibition and tastings of Chilean foods at CentralWorld. Please let us know what products were available for free degustation. Did you sell Chilean products as well?
Indeed, we had some interesting activities in November last year, both offline and online. On November 5 we hosted an activity in the Central Food Hall in which we counted on the participation of some Chilean seafood importers (particularly salmon, sea bass and mussels) and some important collaborators from the supermarket. We also invited the press and some influencers, which was actually the main objective: to raise awareness among Chilean seafood consumers and potential final clients of what Chile has to offer in the Thai market. It was a very good activity and, of course, the food was delicious.
On Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 we had other 2 offline activities: 2 cooking shows in Central Food Hall Chidlom and CentralWorld. These activities were especially consumer focused because we have various offers and special prices for our seafood products, such as salmon, sea bass and mussels. People liked it a lot, since it was not just a stoic promotion but a show, with a presenter explaining why our food is fresh, tasty and of outstanding quality. It was a very good weekend.
As for the online activities, from October 27 until November 27, Fresh Living is going to be our commercial partner through different e-commerce channels. Its e-marketplace, Facebook, Line and Shopee are the channels in which Chilean honey, almonds, walnuts, raisins, prunes, frozen salmon and mussels are being promoted to enhance costumer knowledge and demand of our products.
After the event where can our readers find Chilean products in Bangkok or Thailand? Are there any e commerce sites that we can obtain Chilean foods, wines and speciality foods in Thailand? If so, where and what?
Of course! Our seafood products are available in every supermarket: Central Food Hall, Tops, Villa Market, Tesco, Big C, Makro, Gourmet Market, among others. If what they are looking for is seafood, people will find salmon, sea bass and mussels, they just need to check our flag on the label and that is it, they will have a great flavourful experience.
As for fresh fruit, people will be able to find Chilean cherries, blueberries and grapes, as well as raisins, prunes, honey and walnuts. At the moment, I invite them to go buy Chilean cherries and blueberries straight away, since its season is beginning now.
Regarding e-commerce channels, they can always check Tops or Central Food Hall websites, Fresh Living channels such as Facebook, Line, Shopee and its e-marketplace.
Please leave a final message for expat and our Thai hosts to know about Chile and its products?
First of all, thank you so much for this interview and for your interest in ProChile and our products, it is always great to share what we do and the variety of products we offer in this wonderful country.
As for my message for expats and Thai hosts, I would like to kindly invite them to try our food, to taste for themselves the quality and flavor of our seafood and agri-food and I am sure they will enjoy the experience.
Furthermore, everyone can follow us on our social media, @ASEANProChile on Instagram. There they will be able to find more information on our products and promotion activities in ASEAN.
Thank you Rose Marie.