Handicraft exporters are actively looking to penetrate more high growth and emerging markets in a bid to achieve a 10-percent growth in 2013 from last year’s estimate of $130 million.

“Top countries we are looking at are Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. There are new country entrants – African countries. Russia is a good market, it is very consistent in its position in emerging markets. Also Vietnam,” said Dennis Orlina, president of the Philippine Chamber of Handicraft Industries, Inc. (PCHI).

Orlina said industry players are also working with countries which are not really hit by the European economic crisis, including Germany and Italy.

Apart from Germany, the sector’s biggest markets are the United States and Japan, he said.

Orlina believes that the Philippines has the ability to tap these huge markets.

“China supplies products having the same look. That’s helping us get the orders now because we have something new to offer. Our designs have always been appreciated. Philippine products are much sought after (by consumers),” he noted.

To capture more buyers, Orlina said handicraft makers are working on expanding the utilization of indigenous materials such as abaca and bamboo.

“We are challenged to do capacity building. When you do improvements on changing trend, you interpret it by modifying factors…While the designs are different, the raw materials remain the same,” he said.

Orlina also sees recycling as a growing trend, noting buyers now prefer more products produced from recycled materials.

“The pressure for creativity and recycling is becoming more and more. That is why, we are now looking for new materials and new interpretations for old materials,” he noted.

Orlina stressed that despite challenges facing the handicraft sector, the business opportunities are always there.

“We are seeing the market growing. As long as the market is buying and it is not buying from you, you still have a future. It is just a matter of getting the buyers to come and really buy from us. Sound simple but the challenge is actually huge,” he added.

Orlina said industry players will undertake a benchmarking study on what products are selling, how much buyers are purchasing and how to compete on prices.

Reposted— Danielle Venz, PHILEXPORT News and Features

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