here has been robust year-on-year growth in handicrafts exports thanks to the low production cost, availability of raw materials, low production cost, access to loans and entry into new markets, according to industry insiders.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), export earnings from handicrafts fetched USD 3.36 million in the July–August period of FY2019–20, registering a 12 percent growth from the USD 3 million earned during the same period in FY2018–19
Ashrafur Rahman Faruque, the president of the Bangladesh Handicrafts Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (BHMEA), told The Independent that the investment was nearly zero in the sector because all products are homemade and locally manufactured.
He said the handicrafts industry did not require big capital-intensive machines and massive funds. This industry only requires skilled human resources, he added.
Explaining three aspects of export growth, Faruque said value-addition to handicraft products, a skilled labour force and government support have helped boost the exportgrowth of this sector.
Talking about product performance, Faruque said two products—‘shotorongi’ and terracotta—had recently been added to the export basket. This addition has already accelerated the growth of exports, he observed.
Terracotta is a soil-based craft, while ‘shotorongi’ is a handmade carpet manufactured in Rangpur district.
Faruque, who also owns Nipun Crafts Ltd, said the SME Foundation, a government-owned organisation, had been offering loans with single-digit interest rates to new entrepreneurs to encourage the exports of handicrafts. “Our wage rate is comparatively lower than that of other handicraft-producing countries. Moreover, all types of raw materials are available here,” he added.
Handloom fabrics, Faruque said, were being exported to Japan, Denmark, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.
Mentioning an opportunity, Faruque said: “Countries like China, Vietnam and Thailand, which are well known for producing handicraft products, are shifting to high-tech industries. This gives us an opportunity to capture the global market, which is a billion-dollar market at present.”
When asked about the size of the local market, he said it was Tk. 9,000–12,000 crore and 70–80 lakh people were directly or indirectly employed in this sector.
Talking about the strengths of Bangladeshi handicraft products, Faruque said the country exported mainly two types of handicrafts—home furnishings and different types and forms of baskets made of bamboo, yarn, jute, cane and plastic. “The home furnishing items exported from Bangladesh comprise pillow covers, jute bags, executive bags, laptop bags, shaving kit bags and nakshi kantha,” he added.
Apart from these items, Bangladesh also produces and exports traditional handicraft products like pottery, ‘tant’, muslin, ‘jamdani’, bamboo craft, ‘shital pati’ and jute items.
Explaining the challenges faced by this sector, Faruque said: “There is a scarcity of labs where we can design innovative and unique product. We don’t have any research institute for analysing the local and global markets along with 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.
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