Export of Nepali felt products surge 61.97 percentTraders attributed the growth to products being competitive in the international market, in terms of price and quality.
With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the global economy, the export of most Nepali handicraft products has also declined, as most in the industry predicted. But exports of Nepali felt products have continued to rise despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Traders attributed the growth to products being competitive in the international market, in terms of price and quality.
According to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre, the country exported felt products worth Rs2.74 billion in the first eight months of the current fiscal year (mid-July to mid-March), a sharp rise of 61.97 percent as the export bill amounted to Rs1.69 billion in the same period last fiscal year 2019-20. The country exported felt products worth Rs2.15 billion in the last fiscal year.
Based on data for the last five years, the export of felt products have increased by 69.17 percent and traders are bullish on further growth.
“The demand for Nepali handicraft has been increasing as many types of products can be produced using felt and their designs continue to be updated,” said Maheshower Shrestha, CEO of Everest Fashion, a felt producer based in Kathmandu Valley.
Dharma Raj Shakya, immediate past president of the Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal said that Nepali felt products are competitively priced at reasonable prices compared to other countries that also produce felt products.
“There is good demand for Nepali felt products through online shopping portals operating in the US and European market where customers can buy the goods at low prices and demand has not been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
According to felt traders, the major markets for Nepali felt products are the US and European countries followed by Japan and Canada. Felt products are mainly used as decorative items.
Refined sheep wool is the main raw material for Nepali felt crafts. According to traders, most of the raw material is imported from New Zealand with imports from Australia and China as well. Shrestha said that the pandemic has not impacted the supply of raw material.
Shrestha, who has been in the felt business for over 22 years, said that production declined by 10 percent once the pandemic measures hit the nation. Before the pandemic, his company was producing 5.5 million products annually with all produced goods exported.
Everest Fashion employs 600 workers and produces 20 different varieties of products.
According to him, the demand for Nepali products started increasing in the international market after 2007.
Additionally, domestic felt manufacturers are delivering the ordered goods on time without compromising on quality, Shakya said.
According to the federation, there are 15 major producers in the country while 30 to 35 producers work under them and supply products to major producers. Around 10,000 workers are engaged in making felt products where 90 percent are female workers.
Felt products are produced in Kathmandu valley, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Pokhara, Chitwan. The federation provides training to locals.
Shakya said that discussions were being held to patent Nepali felt products. “However, it is costly to register a patent for each handicraft product so the federation is working to register patents of different handicraft products under one handicraft patent,” he said.
Besides felt products, the demand for products such as thanka painting, metal statute, wooden craft, natural fibre product has declined by 50 percent in the international market currently, Shakya said. He also revealed that demand for handicraft items plunged by 85 percent when the pandemic was at its peak last year.
“Exports had started inclining gradually and moving towards recovery with a declining number of Covid-19 cases in the past few months. But as the second wave has started, the demand has started decreasing and if the second wave lasts longer, then it is possible that exports may see a similar plunge like last year.”
Almost 85 percent of felt products produced in the country are exported to the international market and the remaining is supplied to the domestic market, Shakya said.
“The export potential of Nepali felt products remain unfulfilled due to the lack of sufficient government support in terms of felt production,” Shakya said. “A regular training centre needs to be opened so that training can be provided throughout the year which in turn, helps increase demand and production.”