The rural infrastructure and the splendid creativity of illiterate artisans has made the handicraft industry a potential ground for the development of numerous items crafted out of wood, jute, cane, leather, bamboo, grass, straw, clay and other indigenous raw materials. With the cycling out of time, modern styles and designs have come up with new ideas to adapt with the taste and aptitude of the buyers at home and abroad, paving the way for a unique blend of old and the new styles.
With the resurgence of world-wide interest in handicrafts, various items of cane, bamboo, jute, leather and also earthen goods have caught the interest of buyers in the West. Skilled craftsmen are producing jute and leather goods of attractive designs and finishing, which include cushion cover, place mats, handbags, wallets, belts, shoe uppers, travel bags, pen holders, card holders and many other utility items. Colour fast, fire-resistant, hazard-free jute carpets and items produced from jute-leather combinations are unbelievably price advantageous, eco-friendly and popular all over the world. With all these items, Bangladesh offers to the world a wide range of handicrafts, doubly attractive because of their good quality and reasonable price tag. This obviously speaks of better prospects of the craft sector, which may turn into a prime mover in creating new jobs and earning huge foreign currency for the economy. The export trade is now characterised by the dominance of a few items in a narrow market. If the handcraft sector is given proper attention, the country will benefit a lot in export income every year.
Despite many constraints and barriers, several private entrepreneurs are making the best use of their skill and efficiency in producing handicraft items from jute and leather combinations to feed the foreign market. Sristy International Limited is one of them, producing cushion covers, place mats, tableware, aprons, hand gloves, towels and kitchen materials to export to different foreign countries.
The handicrafts industry is less capital-intensive, more environment-friendly with low labour cost and enjoys huge demand in the global as well as home markets. This particular sector alone can create a large number of jobs for the poor and expand its export base abroad. Sristy officials strongly believe that huge investment with due patronisation of the government in this sector will reduce poverty and also fetch increased foreign currency for the national economy
As a source of non-farm activity, the craft sector was given little attention in the past. There are signs, however, that demands in the local and foreign markets are growing for the unique products made by the artisans and crafts people in Bangladesh. The government must seize this opportunity and also look for new choice by keeping pace with the changing time. For this, proper attention should be given to the handicraft sector by providing various incentives like export market facility and regularly attending trade fairs through market development grants. Besides, Bangladesh missions abroad must be activated to explore and expand markets abroad for the home products.
Bangladesh government data does not currently recognise the craft sector as a specific industry and, as a result, measurement of craft output and impact of different interventions is very difficult to obtain. That is why the handicraft entrepreneurs depend on their own experience to meet the fast changing tastes of buyers based upon the feedback and the market trends. Gradually, these products will match with the competitive world market to secure a large share for the Bangladeshi handicrafts.
By Shamsul Alam Belal