The mainland is one of the world's top printing hubs and, as a result, printing has also become big business in Hong Kong, with exports reaching HK$20 billion last year. The fourth edition of the Hong Kong International Printing & Packaging Fair opened yesterday and continues until Thursday at AsiaWorld-Expo. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and CIEC Exhibition Company are co-organisers of the fair, which plays host to 240 exhibitors. Three group pavilions are set up for exhibitors from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Thailand. Raymond Yip, HKTDC assistant executive director, is keen to emphasise the fair's seminar on the 'Latest Trends in Green Printing', which he said would enhance the environmental trend in the printing arena. The seminar will illustrate a test report of various ink-saving software in the market. Mr Yip also wants to highlight the Book Printing Zone, a new addition to this year's fair. 'Books are a major category in the printing industry and Hong Kong has long been established as a printing centre for books, newspapers, journals and magazines,' he said. 'The 12 local and mainland exhibitors offer specialised book-printing services to international buyers. A key exhibitor is Starlite Printers from Hong Kong.' Richard Lim, executive director and senior vice-president of Starlite Printers, said it had exhibited at the fair since its inception and the company always prided itself on having the biggest exhibitor booth. This year, its booth takes up the space of 12 stands. 'Starlite has always been a strong supporter of the Hong Kong print industry and this fair offers an opportunity for Hong Kong printers to exhibit their services and products to a wide market audience,' Mr Lim said. The company plans to showcase its digital products and speciality printing services. 'Starlite is organising a half-day seminar on digital printing for our customers, with speakers from Agfa, Kodak and HP Indigo. This seminar is sanctioned by the Standardisation Administration of China, the official ISO committee for graphic arts in China,' he said. Mr Lim said the company had felt the effects of the economic downturn but planned to weather the storm. 'Like most companies in Hong Kong and on the mainland, our company is affected by the downturn as a substantial amount of our work is for export markets in the United States and Europe,' he said. 'Fortunately for Starlite, our financial position remains strong despite the credit crunch. The company has invested in new printing presses and benefits from exchange differences.' Although the company still intends to expand, it will be at a more modest rate than before and it will invest in areas where it can see immediate returns. 'Our plan is to continue to promote ourselves in markets that we have not been strong in, including areas in continental Europe where we already have some early success,' Mr Lim said. 'At the same time, we will continue our focus on domestic China business. Our factories in Shanghai and Shaoguan will offer some advantage in terms of proximity to serve our local customers.' The company has tried not to reduce its headcount by much, but instead is rallying its employees to unite in cost-saving measures. Another company exhibiting at the fair is Anderson Group, a packaging services company from Hong Kong. Marketing manager Cathy Li said the company saw the fair as a great opportunity to promote its products. She said the company had been lucky enough not to be affected by the downturn but that it was always good to meet new buyers. The fair organisers have set up 59 buying missions from 35 countries and regions, consisting of nearly 2,000 buyers from more than 1,300 companies. The top five printing export markets for Hong Kong are the United States, Britain, the mainland, Australia and Germany. The US, Britain and the mainland account for 56 per cent of Hong Kong's total exports. Packaging companies on the mainland now use state-of-the-art technology to create high-class and environmentally sound packaging at a low cost to the many manufacturing companies that export products around the world. The Packaging Zone will display plenty of new ideas, while the Integrated Pre-press Service Square will showcase creative expertise. The fair will be open today and tomorrow from 9.30am until 5.30pm, and from 9.30am until 3.30pm on Thursday. Fair information is available at hktdc.com/wap. Use it to register for free admission.