POST TIME: 13 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Handicraft exports surge under favourable condition

Handicraft exports surge under favourable condition

This file photo shows handicrafts products made from jute. Export earnings from handicrafts fetched USD 17.16 million during the July-April period of FY 2018–19. independent photo

There has been a sturdy year-on-year growth in handicrafts exports thanks to the availability of raw materials, low production cost, access to loans with single-digit interest rates, and untapped new markets, according to industry insiders.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), export earnings from handicrafts fetched USD 17.16 million during the July-April period of FY 2018–19—registering a 21.88 per cent growth from the USD 14.08 million earned during the same period in the last fiscal year.

Ashrafur Rahman Faruque, president of the Bangladesh Handicrafts Manufacturers' and Exporters’ Association (BHMEA), told The Independent that this industry only needed skilled human resources. "Investment in this sector is nearly zero because all products are homemade and locally manufactured," he added.

"Moreover, the handicrafts industry does not need big capital-intensive machines and massive funds,” he said.

He singled out three factors behind the export growth; the addition of value to handicraft products, a skilled labour force, and government support.

Faruque said that two products—shotorongi and terracotta—had recently been added to the export basket to accelerate the export growth.

Terracotta is a soil-based craft, while shotorongi is a handmade carpet manufactured in Rangpur district.

Talking about opportunities, Faruque, who also owns Nipun Crafts Ltd, said the SME Foundation, a government-owned organisation, had been offering loans at single-digit interest rates to new entrepreneurs to encourage the export of handicrafts. This is helping emerging entrepreneurs to explore new markets for exporting innovative products, he added.

“Our wage rate is comparatively lower than that of other handicraft-producing countries. Moreover, all types of raw materials are available here,” he said.

Handloom fabrics, he said, were being exported to Japan, Denmark, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.

Pointing out an opportunity, Faruque said: “Countries like China, Vietnam and Thailand, which are known for producing handicraft products, are shifting to high-tech industries. This gives us an opportunity for to capture the global market, which is a billion-dollar market at present.”

When asked about the local market size, the BHMEA president said that Tk. 10,000–12,000 crore was the size of the local market and 60–70 lakh people were directly or indirectly employed in this sector.        

Talking about the strength of Bangladeshi handicraft products, Faruque said Bangladesh exported mostly two types of handicrafts—home furnishings and different types and forms of baskets made of bamboo, yarn, jute, cane and plastic. “All home furnishing items exported from Bangladesh comprise pillow covers, jute bags, executive bags, laptop bags, shaving kit bags and nakshi kantha,” he added.

Besides these items, Bangladesh also produces and exports traditional handicraft products like pottery, tant, muslin, jamdani, bamboo craft, shital pati and jute items. “Bangladesh exports handicrafts mostly to different countries of Europe, the Middle East and North America. Cane is the most precious raw material for handicrafts and we need to preserve this,” Faruque said.      

Explaining the challenges faced by this sector, Faruque said: “We have the capacity to manufacture the latest handicrafts with striking designs. But there is a scarcity of labs where we can design innovative and unique products. Moreover, we don’t have any research facility for analysing the local and global markets to gauge their needs and demands.”

“Artisans manufacture their handicraft products in different parts of the country. We collect the products from them,” he also said.      

“We need a central point to assemble all types of handicrafts. After assembling the products, finishing and packaging work has to be undertaken,” he added.