by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Winemakers in Lebanon have become aware about the importance of sending their products to the Chinese market because of its high demand for wine.
Around 9 million bottles of wine are produced yearly in Lebanon with 45 percent exported to foreign markets.
The annual production of the Lebanese wine industry is equal to the wine sales in one week in China, according to Eliana Ibrahim, president of the China Arab Association for Promoting Cultural and Commercial Exchange.
Although Lebanon's export of wine to China has not been high so far, Lebanese winemakers have started looking for ways to enter the Chinese market.
"Around 3 to 4 percent of our production goes to China every year while we have been working on this market for around 12 years," Gaston Hochar, co-owner of Lebanese winery Chateau Musar, told Xinhua.
Hochar said that the winery's exports to China have increased since he has started dealing with a new distributor in China.
"Ever since then, our exports have started increasing," he said.
Hochar added that exporting to China is not free from challenges.
The country requests a lot of information about the company's products and requires bottles' labels to be translated into Chinese, he explained.
"We are coping with these so far and we travel twice a year to China to promote our products," he said.
The Lebanese wine has become known worldwide while it is being exported to over 30 countries in the world.
Musar, for instance, exports around 85 percent of its production to foreign countries.
Elie Maamari, export manager at Lebanon's Chateau Ksara winery, said that 45 percent of his company's production is exported to 43 countries including three provinces in China.
Maamari said that he has worked hard for seven years to come up with good results in China's market.
One of the main pillars of success for Maamari is the participation in exhibitions in China.
Ksara will participate in the second China International Import Expo in China's eastern metropolis of Shanghai from Nov. 5 to 10.
Maamari said that difficulties in exporting products to China include language barrier and the absence of direct flights between Lebanon and China.
"China also has different rules and laws from those of Lebanon but it is a very promising market and this is why we are making huge efforts," he added.
The remarks of the winemakers came during the 12th edition of Vinifest, an annual four-day wine exhibition in Lebanon which kicked off on Wednesday, with China being the guest of honor for the first time.
More than 70 participants took part in this year's event, enjoying Chinese martial arts performances while watching and tasting Chinese cooking of noodles, dumplings and spring rolls.
Nada Farah, head of Eventions, an events organizer company, said that the Chinese people are highly interested in introducing their culture in Lebanon.
Lebanese ministries also have, on many occasions, expressed their interest to enter the Chinese market.
Marie Therese Mubarak, coordinator at Chateau Fakra, said that her company participated in two exhibitions in China.
"We are looking forward to getting in contact with concerned ministries in Lebanon to participate in more exhibitions in China," she said.
Mubarak expressed her optimism about the potential of her company's expansion to China.
"We know there are some difficulties such as Chinese labels and language barriers but it will get better," she said.
Nathalie Touma, co-owner of St. Thomas, said that her company did not start exporting to China.
However, they have participated in Chinese exhibitions and people loved their wine.
"We need to tell the Chinese people more about Lebanon to send out products there," she said.
Lebanese Economy Minister Mansour Bteish emphasized during the opening ceremony of Vinifest the importance of the wine industry.
The wine sector strengthens other sectors such as agriculture by cultivating about 2,200 hectares of land with grapes, as well as developing domestic and foreign trade, Mansour said.