Handmade paper eyes brighter days

Kathmandu, January 17:

Nepali entrepreneurs involved in the production and export of handmade lokta paper are eyeing brighter days ahead, hoping to boost the current trade volumes by three folds to Rs 1,000 million.

Lokta paper, popularly known as rice paper, is handmade for ages in Nepal using the bark of Daphne Papyracea. These plants are found in the forests of Nepal between the altitudes of 6,500ft to 9,500ft.

“It has become one of the major handicraft export commodities and holds a huge potential,” said Dr Milan Dev Bhattarai, president of Handmade Paper Association (HANDPASS).

According to him, total export of Nepali handmade paper and its products stand at about Rs 300 million, a figure that has not been able to pick itself up for the past few years.

According to Handicraft Association of Nepal figures, Nepal exported handmade paper products worth Rs 301.72 million in 2003-04, which dropped to Rs 263.76 million in 2004-05. Export during the fiscal 2005-06 is expected to have crossed Rs 300 million.

Fall in the export of handmade paper products is mainly due to deficit supply of raw material in the form of lokta plants. Nepal can produce 110,000 metric tonnes (MT) of green lokta per year, but till date, the supply has hovered at about 15,000 MT per year.

Nepali handmade paper presents one of the most ancient and simple methods of paper making, preserving a traditional craft of Nepal that extends back to more than a thousand years. The paper is also prized for its attractive texture, durability and anti-pest nature.

“Because of its unique characteristics, its demand in the international market is growing,” said Dr Bhattarai, adding that the plan to raise the current trade volume by three folds is justifiable.

As part of the promotion of Nepali handmade paper, 14 Nepali entrepreneurs involved in production and export of handmade lokta paper are heading for Germany this week to

participate in the Paper World Fair, starting in Frankfurt on January 24.

Highlights of the show will be the display of high-end lokta products at Trend Design Hall of the fair, produced by 14 entrepreneurs and collected by different designers from Pakistan, Thailand, Japan, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany, according to HANDPASS and GTZ-Private Sector Promotion (GTZ-PSP) project. A seven-member multinational jury led by renowned Dutch product designer based in Holland and Paris, Ceila Suzanne Sliujter, selected these products to represent Nepal at the world’s top paper fair.

“The products are simply top-end in quality and will definitely create a niche market all over Europe,” said Armin Hofmann, GTZ-PSP’s principal advisor.

He added that their showcasing in Frankfurt is not only important for the handmade paper sector but also for Nepali business community, giving confidence to international buyers.

At the world fair, Nepali entrepreneurs intend to market handmade paper products for the global market and utilise the occasion as an opportunity to promote the brand image under the tag line of ‘NepaLokta-a new spirit in paper’.