Charity begins at home, says FHAN

KATHMANDU: Nepali handicraft sector is a major foreign currency earner and the international market is growing but the outlook at home for the coming days seems bleak. Those related to this business feel that they are bound to bear losses and face hard times, all because the government doesn’t care about their sector.

People in this business opine that the fall in tourist arrivals compared to previous years will be one of the causes. More than 40 per cent of the total exportable handicraft goods are sold in the domestic market as gift items, according to the Federation of Handicraft Association of Nepal (FHAN).

“ We need cut-throat competition to evolve positive attitudes in the local market. Lack of proper business strategies like fresh market survey and innovations are lacking here. Besides, there is support from the government’s side,” said FHAN president Pushkar Man Shakya.

He added that the local market is small and only those selling at cheapest reates survive. Due to this, their profit margins are low and attendant benefits are little as compared to those when handicrafts are exported to Tibet. According to Shakya, about Rs 60 million worth of handicraft products are exported through Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.

“There, the tourist arrivals are high and the market also is large. Merchants there can keep their required margin and sell imported Nepalese handicraft products at a comfort level,” said Shakya. Compared to Nepal, the region gets a much higher number of tourist arrivals. In Nepal, the shop rent rate is very high. Coupled with low tourist arrivals and the small market for handicrafts businessmen here hardly make enough to get by, leave aside flourish.

Shakya said, “This is only the indigenous product with steady growth in the international market. Here at home, the sector needs government attention to grow.”

He added that India can be another major buyer of Nepali handicrafts but due to lack of easy passage of Nepali products to India export is limited to Rs 52 million only. “If only there was easy passage of Nepali handicrafts to India, export would increase by more than 100 per cent,” Shakya said.

According to nine months’ comparative data of FHAN statistics, the total export of handicraft goods increased by 17 per cent compared to the same period the last fiscal year.

Silver jewellery export increased by eight per cent compared to the same period in 2008. Last year, silver jewellery worth Rs 246,186,433 were while this year silver ornaments worth Rs 265,051,370 were exported. The export of pashmina also increased by 31 per cent compared to the same period last year. Total pashmina exported last year was worth Rs 438,527,755 which increased to Rs 573,652,460.