Exports of felt products surge by over 50 percent to Rs 1 billionThe US, European countries and Japan are the major market for Nepali felt products.
The export of felt products has jumped sharply by 52 percent in the first four months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period last fiscal year due to different designs that meet international demand.
According to the statistics of Trade and Export Promotion Center, the country exported felt products of worth Rs1 billion during mid-July to mid-October of the current fiscal year. The country exported felt products worth Rs687 million during the same period in the last fiscal year.
Mainly used for decoration, accessories, utility and gift items, felt products are also available at a reasonable price and this has boosted the demand of domestic felt product in the international market, said Dharma Raj Shakya, former president of the Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal.
The export data of the Federation shows that the country exported felt products totalling Rs1.84 billion in the last fiscal year 2018-19 against the export of Rs1.54 billion in the previous fiscal year, a rise of 19 percent.
Domestic traders said the demand for felt products has been increasing annually.
Raj Basnet, CEO at Felt and Yarn said that he has been receiving a good number of orders, especially from the US. “We are making felt products worth around Rs15 million on an average month and business doubles from September to January due to different festivals celebrated in the US,” he said.
The US, European countries and Japan are the major market for Nepali felt products. India and China are being developed as a newly developing market for Nepali felt products as well, said Shakya.
The country exported felt products worth Rs895 million in the fiscal year 2013-14 which reached Rs1.15 billion in the fiscal year 2014-15 and has been growing in international market year-on-year.
Similarly, refined sheep wool which is the main raw material required for the production of felt is being imported from New Zealand. With the lack of commercial-scale sheep rearing in Nepal, traders are compelled to import the raw material.
Basnet said they have also been exporting felt products that are further developed in the imported market.
The most popular felt products include decorative items and accessories such as bracelets, brooches, finger puppets, toys, handbags and key rings, apparels like shoes, mufflers and belts, said Basnet. Additionally, items such as carpet, plate-mat, cushion mats are also doing good business.
Basnet who has been in the felt business for the past 10 years said that the demand for decorative products, gift items and holiday products are high in the US.
Shakya said that support from the private sector played a major part in boosting exports to new heights. “If the government does not support the industry, there is a high chance of production shrinking, just like the carpet and pashmina industries,” he said.
Furthermore, Basnet said that while the government provides a rebate on exports, it is a hassle to collect them. The customs process is also not that friendly for exporters. “It would have been better if the customs were kept open on public holidays and late in the evening which helps in getting customs clearance on time,” he said.
"100 women are working at Felt and Yarn and they earn Rs15,000-20,000 on average each month," said Basnet. Making felt products has become a good source of income, especially for women as it requires little training to start working, he added.