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Handicraft sector threatened by accelerating imports

May '08
Markets in Bhutan are flooded with jewelry, gift items, home décor and a host of other handicraft goods but alas, none belong to the country itself.

A recent trend in the Bhutanese market shows that there has been a wave of handicraft imports from Indian cities of Delhi, Kalimpong and Kathmandu of Nepal which has virtually paralyzed the local craft industry.

Petrified by this scenario, local craftsmen are facing threat to the survival of their traditional goods because imports of handicraft products will not hamper the business but will rather force thousands of artisans without a livelihood.

A range of items from thangkas to masks, jewelry, silver and bronze decorations, statues, and religious instruments are imported. Most of the imports are oxidized metal products, giving off an antique look that invariably makes tourists an easy prey.

However, shops selling imported goods have a different story to tell. According to them one of the main reasons why Bhutanese handicrafts are less in demand is because they are blatantly over-priced and labor intensive. In fact some even find them to be of poor quality that leads customers to buy other attractive goods.

Recently, a handicraft association was also formed to promote the local industry but all in vain. Now, craftsmen are seeking Government support for bringing traditional handicraft sellers under one roof.

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