(CIIE) Across China: Peruvian alpaca toys enchant Chinese market at CIIE
SHANGHAI, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Dressed in traditional indigenous attire, the Peruvian craftsman Oswaldo Mamani meticulously combs the fur of an alpaca plush toy using homemade tools, making it soft and fluffy, while his wife Gloria skillfully stitches on a face.
Oswaldo and Gloria Mamani, from the picturesque city of Arequipa, Peru, never dreamed that the handmade alpaca plush toys they had been crafting since their youth would one day be in high demand thousands of miles away in China.
"Without the alpaca, we wouldn't be here, in such a distant place," said Oswaldo Mamani, shortly after landing in Shanghai for the sixth China International Import Expo (CIIE), which kicked off last Sunday and will continue until Friday.
The couple's plush toys have found massive success in the Chinese market, leading them to travel to China for the first time to participate in the CIIE. The expo has been a critical platform for the Mamani family, connecting their small workshop in Arequipa with a burgeoning market of 1.4 billion people.
Before entering the Chinese market, Oswaldo Mamani, who has been practicing his craft since the age of 15, ran a small shop in Arequipa, selling the couple's home-made alpaca fur products, such as cushions, slippers and plush toys.
Back then, their sales were modest, relying on sporadic orders to keep his workshop afloat. However, everything changed in 2016, thanks to a chance encounter with Chinese entrepreneur Ma Yuxia, who purchased some of their toys as client gifts.
The plush toys later became a hit among Ma's clients and she received an order for 1,000 toys. Ma turned to the Mamanis to fulfill the order.
"To find out we had to make 1,000 little alpacas was astounding; at the time, the largest we'd ever had was for 50 to 100," Oswaldo Mamani said. Rallying his siblings and family, they worked together and managed to complete the large order on time.
Recognizing the potential of the product, Ma later established the brand Warmpaca to further bridge the gap between the family and the Chinese market.
Over the years, Warmpaca has grown alongside the CIIE, expanding its booth space and product variety. Its products now reach customers across more than 20 Chinese cities.
Oswaldo Mamani's workshop has also grown as more family members have joined in the venture. It now sends between 20,000 and 25,000 units to China annually.
The Mamanis are among the many beneficiaries of China's vast market. Warmpaca is collaborating with over 400 artisans from more than 20 Peruvian families, who have experienced a significant increase in income.
At this year's CIIE, Ma introduced alpaca wool garments for the first time. She also expressed the intention of participating in future CIIEs and inviting Peruvian artisans to visit China during each edition.
"We always believed our product could go somewhere, but we never imagined it would reach China, a place on the other side of the world," said Oswaldo Mamani.