Handicraft entrepreneurs fret as stocks pile up

Handicraft products worth around Rs 21 billion are exported every year but it has already been four months since handicraft entrepreneurs have not been able to make a single export.

KATHMANDU: Feeling insecure about the prospects of the handicraft business, craftsmanBhuwanKapali from Thimi, Bhaktapur,decided to get involved in the vegetable farming scheme in his neighborhood on August 6. However, he has not completely quit his handicraft business and is hopeful about being able sell his handmadecotton masks and ceramic statues that remain in stockin the local market.

“We had made those products as per the orders placed by wholesalers but at the moment they have stopped buying ourproducts which are lying in stock at home,” said Kapali. “Handicraft goods are often bought by tourists and Nepalis going abroad who carry them assouvenirs. It is not that the locals here cannot buy these products to gift it to others or use as decorative items but the gift giving culture is literally absent in our country,” he explains.
Many handicraft entrepreneurs like Kapali whohave started embracing alternative professions at present are still hopeful about selling the products they have in stock.Sharinghis frustration caused by the uncertainty in the market that could prevail for a few more years, Kapali stressed on the need for an appropriate market in the country itself to sustain their business.
Those entrepreneurs who have still not been able to leave their traditional business and embrace other professions also expect to trade their products in the domestic market. “At the moment the demand for our goods from abroad is not as good as it used to be before. I am in a sticky situation as I can neither sell my shop nor just abandon it,” rues RijuShrestha, Manager at BR Handicraft Pvt Ltd.
“There is no buyer for either my shop or my products but we still have to pay the house rent and other taxes,” he states, adding, “In such a situation the local market could help us survive, hence the government should promote the marketfor our products within the country itself.”
According to the Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN), 90 percent of the Nepali handicraft products are consumed by tourists due to which the sector has been hit hard by the travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.FHAN President Surendra Bhai Shakya noted that only 30 percent of the craftsmen in the sector have been continuing with their work after the COVID-19 hit the Nepali market.

Till the beginning of 2020, handicraft sector alone was offering employment opportunity to around 1.1 million youths. “On average, handicraft products worth around Rs 21 billion are exported every year but it has already been four months since the lockdown started and we have not been able to make a single export,” revealed Shakya.
Only a few entrepreneurs in the valley are manufacturing any products right now and that too those orders had already been placed from abroad quite some time back.“Though a few manufacturers are continuing with their business, they have not been able to deliver their products due to which the goods have piled up in stock. Entrepreneurs are facing difficulties in exporting their products due to the increased cargo rate,”shared Shakya.
Dambar Prasad Regmi, secretary general at the Federation of Nepal Cottage and Small Industries, shared, “Many SMEs which utilize domestic raw materials have resumed operations to some extent after the lockdown was eased.However, businesses in the handicraft sector are still closed despite the availability of required raw materials and human resources.”
As a small attempt to retain and encourage the entrepreneurs in the sector, FHAN has drafted a proposal to establish ‘Nepali Kosheli Ghar’ in Patan for all handicraft entrepreneurs within the valley to trade their products under a single roof.The initiative will provide help in branding, marketing and promoting the Nepali handicraft products in the country and abroad.
“Craftsmen and entrepreneurs in the sector are getting frustrated as their hard work is not being paid off at present.Meanwhile, their expenditures are also rising by the day,” explained Shakya, adding, “Handicraft products also reflect Nepali art and culture and it plays an important role in demonstrating our identity to the world. So, it must be preserved.Thus, we are trying to establish the store as soon as possible and we are in the process of submitting the proposal to the concerned authorities.”
Likewise, FNCSI is all preparing to collaborate with all banks and financial institutions to disseminate information about financial literacy among the handicraft entrepreneurs across the nation. According to Regmi, “The new budget and Monetary Policy for fiscal 2077-78 have provided some relief measures to the SMEs like refund facility and subsidized loans of up to Rs 1.5 million to all SMEs without any collateral, among other. We are tying up with different BFIs to inform the entrepreneurs about these benefits.”
Shakya also expects the government to implement its promotional programme for domestic products in the local market as quickly as possible.


Fiscal Nepal |
Wednesday August 19, 2020, 10:40:43 AM |

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