ISLAMABAD: The Inter­national Trade Centre’s Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) project has successfully signed Letters of Intent (LoIs) with 23 leading firms in Sindh, to enhance market connectivity for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across 12 districts in the province.

The LoIs signed between ITC and the firms under GRASP signify the commitment for mutually beneficial cooperation, taking into account each organisation’s respective mandates and capacities, ITC said in a press release on Thursday.

GRASP, a project of the Geneva-based ITC funded by the European Union, encompasses various key elements of success in sector development.

These included policy support from the government, capacity building for farmers and SMEs and crucially, facilitating access to finance and markets.

The signatories recognised the vital role of promoting private sector development, particularly among SMEs involving farming communities, as a mean to eradicate poverty and achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

The collaboration marked a significant milestone in the promotion of private sector development and the achievement of sustainable economic growth in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Under the terms of the LOIs, the signatories have agreed to collaborate and complement each other’s activities in various ways.

The firms will work closely with ITC GRASP in Sindh to enhance the capacity of growers by providing technical expertise and promoting best practices among producers in the region.

Additionally, they will facilitate orientation and exposure visits for farmers marketing collectives (FMCs) and agribusinesses supported by ITC GRASP, fostering knowledge sharing and promoting direct selling of produce to them.

The collaboration between ITC and the firms aimed to create inclusive and favourable access to markets, finance, and business support systems for rural SMEs.

It also sought to advocate for sustainable and inclusive trade practices and policies, highlighting the contribution of inclusive trade to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, the signatories will explore joint programmes with an emphasis on eradicating poverty, gender inclusion and achieving sustained and inclusive economic growth.

The representative of European Union delegation to Pakistan, Stephen Langrell stated that the EU supported the facilitation of market linkages between different private sector actors as promoted by the EU funded GRASP project.

Promoting and supporting market access is an important business development service that can positively change the SME landscape.

Through market linkages with large and established enterprises, emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses can benefit from the prospect of more opportunities, as well as more enhanced chances of success with respect to development and longer sustainable growth.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2023

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