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Print Edition> Business
UPDATED: June 9, 2014 NO. 24 JUNE 12, 2014
Small Commodities, Big Prospects
There is nothing miniature about the ambitions of the city of Yiwu
By Ma Li

NEW CHANNEL: A cargo train linking east China and Central Asian and European countries, sets off from Yiwu West Station, Zhejiang Province on January 20 (XINHUA)

The scene of vendors wandering about the streets and peddling their wares in Yiwu, a small city in east China's Zhejiang Province, is gone, never to return.

The city has developed into an internationally recognized hub for small commodities trading. It has attracted 13,000 resident foreign business people and its daily passenger flow volume had surpassed 200,000 by 2013. More than 170 categories of small commodities were exported from Yiwu to 219 countries and regions in 2013, with a gross value of imports and exports of as much as $18.61 billion.

Inhabiting a world that is getting more interconnected, it appears that the only thing not shrinking in Yiwu is the profits.

Logistics channels

A strong logistics network is the cornerstone of Yiwu's development. To facilitate the exporting of small commodities, the local government has been committed to building a diversified international logistics system encompassing land, rail, air and sea.

"Cargo was first transported to Ningbo, a port city in Zhejiang, by truck, then shipped to a Russian port by sea, and lastly sent to Alma-Ata by railway," said Barker, a Kazakh businessman, who used to transport commodities from Yiwu to Kazakhstan. "It took about 45 days, and the freight charge could be as high as $8,000 per 40 feet high cube container."

With the promotion of international transport and customs transit in Yiwu, it only takes five days for commodities to arrive at Alataw Pass in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which is on the border of China and Kazakhstan, and 12 days for those commodities to be put on sale. The freight charge has also been lowered to $5,500 per 40 feet high cube container.

On April 23, 2013, Yiwu Customs, the country's only county-level customs, released a customs transit policy concerning railway transportation to facilitate the exports of small commodities to Central Asian countries. "After being declared at Yiwu Customs, cargoes can arrive at Alataw Pass within five days," said Shao Hongbin, Deputy Chief of Yiwu Customs.

Customs transit for railway transportation is designed for small commodities being exported to Eurasian countries. It is more economical and efficient to declare commodities at Yiwu Customs, transport them by Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway to Alataw Pass and then export them, said Shao, adding that the preferential policy will help Yiwu further expand its reach in commodity market.

Now, routes connecting Alataw Pass and Khorgos in Xinjiang with Russia and Central Asian countries as well as those passing Manzhouli of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and heading for Russia have been opened up and attracted enterprises from Taizhou and Wenzhou of Zhejiang, and Wuxi of Jiangsu Province to make export declarations in Yiwu.

Since April, exports from Yiwu to Central Asia have reached $6.86 million, up 32.2 times over the same period of the previous year. During the first four months of this year, Yiwu dispatched 1,410 standard containers through Alataw Pass and Khorgos. This route will be extended to Europe in August.

Yiwu also has an inland port station, which was put into operation in October 2011. By now, the inland port has attracted more than 250 international freight forwarders and enterprises engaged in shipping, customs declaration, exports and imports.

Since the Yiwu-Beilun route of sea-railway combined transportation was opened in October 2013, it has become more convenient to ferry small commodities from Ningbo Port to Central Asian and European countries.

Moreover, Yiwu Airport, which is still undergoing construction, has been partially opened since October 2007, and a passenger air route has been put in place between Yiwu and Hong Kong.

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