Craft industry struggles to find export markets

Monday, Jan 25, 2016 08:12

Two women make pottery in Ha Noi's Bat Trang Ceramic Village. Domestic handicrafts face the challenge of finding new export markets when the country integrates into the global economy. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

HA NOI (Biz Hub) — Viet Nam's handicrafts face many challenges in producing and finding export markets, while integrating into the world economy although it has the potential for economic development.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Agricultural Trade Promotion Centre, there are nearly 1,750 traditional craft villages across the country, providing employment to about 13 million people, in which 35 per cent are regular labourers and the remainder are seasonal employees.

These craft villages, many of which are centuries old, such as Van Phuc Silk village, Dong Ky Wood Carving village and Bat Trang Ceramic village, play important roles in forming and preserving local cultural values and boosting the villages' economies, said Dao Van Ho, the centre's director.

However, despite their large numbers, the country's craft villages are suffering from a lack of management and planning, a shortage of human resources, raw materials and capital, backwards technology and poorly-design products, all of which make it difficult to build brand recognition, in comparison with neighbouring countries in the region, Ho explained.

In addition, the link between villages remain limited.

Difficulties in meeting market demands and linking to customers are also concerns of those involved in handicrafts in many villages.

For years, craft villages have not paid attention to diversifying their designs to target the tastes of customers, while maintaining the typical characteristics of domestically-made handicrafts.

According to Ha Thi Vinh, director of Quang Vinh Ltd Co, among those who operate under the household-model, the heads of these small businesses often do not have the knowledge required to find outside markets, as they have not been trained in management techniques. In fact, this has prevented craft villages from operating professionally, as they need to depend upon many intermediaries, causing customers to become unsure about the villages' products.

Further, many products have not registered their trademarks and they also have not received quality certificates, making it difficult to become commercial products for export, she said.

"The process of ASEAN integration are enormous challenges for Vietnamese enterprises, especially to businesses, cooperatives, and household producers in craft villages. We likely fail at home due to the limited ability of household-scale producers, as well as the weakness of the distribution system, including import-export, wholesale and retail in the villages," Vinh explained.

Luu Duy Dan, chairman of the Viet Nam Craft Villages' Association, said villages are facing a large number of problems, including financial shortages, production space, outdated technology, untrained labourers and environmental pollution. And the largest challenge now is to find buyers for their products.

"In this era of the rapid development of technology, products produced by advanced production machinery and technology are dominating and replacing handicrafts in Viet Nam, and also other countries," he said.

"To survive and further develop, handicrafts have to depend on their strengths. That means that craft products must maintain and preserve their local culture and national character."

The craft makers should pay attention to improve their quality, not only quantity, to display the creativity and talent of the artists, he said.

The craft villages firstly need to create featured products to meet the demands of the domestic market and beyond, to international markets. For this, the products of the villages need to build their own brands, said Dan.

He added that the association has carried out some renewal solutions, aimed at removing difficulties for the craft villages.

The first change is the method of production, including independent household producers working together to design, produce and consume their products, in order to improve quality, reduce costs and prices of products and limit the negative impact on the environment.

Simultaneously, renewing design and technology should be improved, but also promoting traditional characters to meet the demands of domestic and international customers, he said.

The Government should also have more policies to overall support the production and consumption of products from craft villages, such as capital support, raw material planning and environmental protection, he said.

The handicraft makers also need assistance in surveying foreign markets, researching designs, training, setting up distribution systems, organising trade fairs at home and abroad, and especially building centres to introduce handicraft products, he added. — VNS

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