The agency provided financial and management support to the companies sent to the fair. The state agreed to support the Estonian companies' stand at the exhibition with 266,000 kroons ($16,072) this year, which exceeds last year's funding by less than $1,000.
Enso, Jalax, Krisling, TVMK and other Estonian furniture companies were no rookies at the fair, all had attended before.
According to Lea Kroonmann, director of the export agency, the Cologne fair is the biggest and the most significant event for the production and distribution of furniture. More than 110,000 specialists and 38,000 regular customers visited the fair last year.
"The German movables market is emerging, with growth of about 5 percent annually," said Kroonmann. The volume of the market is roughly 360 billion kroons, she added.
Most of the companies representing Estonia at the fair produce wooden furniture.
According to data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Finland has long been the top importer of Estonian furniture (27 percent in both 1999 and 2000). But imports to Germany have been growing during the last two years and were 23 percent of the Estonian exports last year.
Furniture exports totaled 1.7 billion kroons last year.
Ministry experts predicted that this year the export of Estonian furniture would increase about 10 percent.
Laur Lubja, the head of Jalax, an Estonian company specializing in metal and other high-end furniture, said that by using modern industrial technologies local producers could sell more effectively worldwide under their own brand names Ð not as subcontractors.
One Jalax's key projects is as a subcontractor producing metal movables for a U.S. company.
Joacim Andersson, director of fair participant Enso Moobel, said the contacts established in Cologne covered the expenses of going to the fair. "Direct contacts with the largest sellers will probably raise our export amount by 15 million kroons," said Andersson.
Eighty percent of the production of the furniture factory TVMK goes to Germany, according to Viivika Roze, manager for exports to Western countries. Roze said that if there were no double customs fees at the Estonian-Russian border, Russia would experience a flow of Estonian furniture companies keen to take their place on that enormous market.