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    Opportunities in Adversity


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    Some members of the business community in LDCs have achieved resounding success, pushing forward against the current to become achievers in adversity. They show there are tangible business opportunities. This article highlights ITC research identifying leading market niches for LDCs.

    Least developed countries (LDCs) are already exporting US$ 3.4 billion of cotton fabrics, textiles and clothing each year. Bangladesh has made itself a champion in this field over the past two decades: it accounts for 75% of LDC export earnings from textiles.

    Coffee is more than a mainstay for LDCs. It is also an area where innovative entrepreneurs have been able to move up the value chain with products such as gourmet and organic coffee.

    The importance of spice exports from LDCs (about US$ 100 million) is much greater than simply the size of the market. The sector provides employment in rural areas, particularly for women, as spices are grown by smallholders.

    Many LDCs have at least one champion product and entrepreneurial success stories can be found in many countries - despite difficulties they face in expanding their international trade. Champion export products in LDCs include veneer from Equatorial Guinea, women's clothing from Laos, nuts and tea from Malawi, and fish products from Mauritania.

    By comparing the trade performance of 184 countries in 14 different sectors, ITC found that LDCs are not systematically at the bottom of the rankings. Cambodia, for instance, is the 37th largest exporter of garments out of 130 countries worldwide. Haiti and Myanmar are among the ten fastest-growing garment exporters. Madagascar is the largest vanilla and cloves exporter. Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal and Sudan are important world exporters of oilseed-based products.

    How will things go in the future? To explore LDCs' potential to improve their trade performance, ITC studied the broad range of products they export, to identify the most promising areas. We identified 13 sectors in a non-exclusive list. The following section looks at few of them in brief.

    Related links:

    Textiles and Garments
    Medicinal Plants
    Fish Products
    Business-related Services
    Spices and Culinary Herbs