Handicrafts refer to products that are handmade using simple tools and represent the culture and traditions of a country or region. Their production requires considerable hand-eye coordination and intense concentration. Each handcrafted product is unique as each craftsperson applies their strength differently, owing to which every product has distinct qualities. Handicrafts play a vital role in the economic development of a country. It requires low capital investments and offer employment opportunities. In addition, handicraft items are perceived as a symbol of status owing to their uniqueness, quality, usage of natural materials, and the essence of vibrant art and culture.
Global Handicrafts Market and Trends
The global handicrafts market has been up surging, due to the increasing interest of people in environment safety, art and culture. In the recent times a large number of micro and small enterprises have evolved in this sector specially in the developing countries, where artisans from poor communities are involved in the creation of handicrafts. Their artworks are being globally valued on humanitarian grounds. In recent years, with the emergence of online retail and the proliferation of various e-commerce channels, the accessibility to handicrafts has become more convenient for consumers. This has provided a boost to the sales of handcrafted goods across the globe.
The key importing countries of the handicraft products include the U.S.A, France, U.K, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Japan, and Hong Kong. The major handicrafts exporting countries are China, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Colombia and South Africa. China dominates the export market for handicrafts followed by Vietnam and India.
The global handicrafts market size reached to US$ 752.2 Billion in 2022. Expects that the market will reach to US$ 1,296.6 Billion by 2028, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1% during 2023-2028.Even during the COVID time while the fallout of the coronapandemic has hit nearly every business sector but handicrafts have continued faring well in the global market. Because during the pandemic increased people’s focus on their homes, (particularly online) sales of home products were boosted. Money that was originally reserved for travel and other leisure activities, could instead be spent on home improvement and decoration.
Global consumers are increasingly adopting more sustainable lifestyles. Consumers and designers are making more sustainable choices, especially in higher-end segments. There is an increasing concern and awareness of the negative impacts of production and consumption, further emphasised by the pandemic. For most consumers (particularly the younger generations), the COVID-19 crisis has made it more important that both consumers and companies improve their sustainability. In addition, most people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19.Natural materials such as jute and grasses fits in well with this trend, as well as the use of recycled fibres or leftovers from the production of other textile products.
According to the World Economic Forum, 86% of people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. While this is reflected in an increased demand for fairly produced products, these products do not necessarily have to be fair-trade certified. Often, simply adhering to WFTO’s fair trade principles is sufficient.Due to increased globalization handicrafts products are becoming more and more commoditized and artisans find their products competing with goods from all over the world. It is no longer possible to look at traditional artisan communities and their products in isolation from global market trends and competition. So crafts market is strongly influenced by fashion trends, consumer purchasing patterns, and economic conditions in end markets.
Export potentiality from Bangladesh
Handicrafts have been making a special contribution to the national economy since the 1970s as a tool for the development of Bangladesh’s tradition, culture and poverty alleviation. Millions of artisans at the village level are involved in this sector and their livelihood is earned through craftsmanship. Handicrafts have an important contribution in earning foreign currency through the export of handmade products using 100% local raw materials. Already Bangladesh has a significant market share for handicrafts in the world market; Which can be expanded much more. Its main export market is spread over around 50 countries of North America, Europe and the Middle East, size of domestic market is around Tk. 10,000 crore. Bangladeshi handicrafts are now at the focus of large buyers including global giant Walmart. While other sectors are struggling during corona pandemic Export of handicrafts have increased by about 60%.
It is known that the size of global market of handicrafts may reach up to 752 billion US dollars by 2023. Bangladesh has the ability to capture a good portion of it but there are problems also because buyers have reduced price on the backdrop of huge demand in world market. In order to overcome this crisis entrepreneurs, feel that it is necessary to reduce taxes, increase cash incentives and establish Karupalli following the model of Thailand, Vietnam, India and China.
Global buyers are highly eager to purchase from Bangladesh because our handicrafts are the extensive use of individual skill and the interesting design motifs. Produced fully from indigenous raw materials procured normally from rural environment. Marginal level people are directly involved in producing handicrafts. Handicrafts are about one hundred percent value added. As a result, it contributes more to our economy than import based exports. There has been massive employment in this sector at rural level most of them are women.
If rate of cash incentives is enhanced volume of export will increase a lot. As our entrepreneurs have to compete with China and India to survive in world market. For survival amount of cash incentives of 20% against export of handicrafts should be restored.According to the data published by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the total income from the handicrafts sector in the last financial year (2021-22) was 4 crores 2 million 83 thousand dollars. In the financial year 2020-21, its amount was about 3 crore 34 lakh dollars.
Bangladesh’s handicrafts not only promise increasing foreign currency earnings through exports but also women empowerment. Last fiscal year over $40 million-worth products were exported, propelled by a workforce including around five lakh women, half of whom are based in their own homes, working for exporters throughout the country.
With exports beginning in 1980, such products which are made entirely by hand or by using only simple tools have come to create an international market of more than $50 million, as per the data. But nowadays this emerging sector is facing some major challenges like- lack of cash incentives, raw materials crisis, lack of infrastructure, storage and transportation facilities problems, lack of bank loans and we don’t have any R&D or design center for this sector.
With government support, Bangladeshi handcrafts can expand its presence in the global market by four to five times and be worth of billion dollars in the next three to five years, if above these challenges can be solved. Besides, our main competitors in the global markets are Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India and recently Africa. In these countries, the small entrepreneurs are getting easy access to bank loans and other facilities from the government.But in our country, small entrepreneurs are not getting incentives and bank loans on easy conditions. Only few companies can meet the terms and conditions for getting government incentives and bank loans.
If we get government assistance like that provided to the other sector like garments sector, handicrafts manufacturers and exporters can create another BGMEA in coming days. The demand for handicraft products in local markets is also increasing. But foreign buyers are not properly informed about our new and innovative products. So highlighting the possibility of versatile production and marketing of handicraft products in front of the national and international markets.
Bangladesh is well known for its exotic crafts legacy and tradition. It is the land of art and crafts, a country of rich culture, history and traditions. Variety of designs and finishes are available in Bangladeshi market that reflects excellent artistic skills of craftsmen are in great demand globally. Bangladesh is one of the important suppliers of handicrafts to the world market.
Low cost of production, accessibility to loans with single-digit interest rates, exploration of untapped markets, availability of raw materials, value-addition to the product and skilled labour have contributed to such rates of growth. Around 50 lakh people are employed in the handicrafts industry across the country.
Skilled human resources and some craft tools are the key components for this sector. All raw materials required for handicrafts are available inside the country. Craftsmen don’t need to import a single component from abroad. What is needed now is due patronage from the government. There are not enough research labs to produce unique and innovative designs nor are there any research institution to analyse the local and global markets and their needs and demands. Those need to be addressed without further loss of time for future flourishing the sector.
Many industries will stumble in the era of green economy, but handicraft souvenir products will become one of our major industries as they fit into the “green economy”.The current petroleum based economy that is slowly emerging as a threat to the survival of human civilization; It can be broken at any time by people’s will or unwillingness! In such a situation, conscious buyers of the world are leaning towards eco-friendly, biodegradable products from their own awareness. Therefore, better days are waiting for the handicrafts of Bangladesh in the coming days. To take properadvantage of this, we must also prepare. The actual number of exports of handicrafts at the national level is still showing low due to lack of proper HS code for all handicraft products. If all categories of handicrafts are included as per export policy parameters and complexity of HS code is removed, then true contribution of this sector to GDP will cross billion dollars.