In 2014, the export value of Vietnamese handicrafts jumped 8 percent on-year to 1.6 billion USD, accounting for one-fifth of world market share, radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reported.

However, Vietnam’s handicraft exports have just targeted the low-end markets and have not matched their full potential.

This was recently announced by the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The MARD had approved a plan to export handicraft products for the period 2010-2015, which set an export target of 1.6 billion USD. However, the sector fulfilled the target a year ahead of schedule, the Ministry reported.

Last year, Vietnam’s bamboo and rattan exports grossed 530 million USD while the turnover for ceramic, weaving, wood sculpture and household products was 480 million USD, 270 million USD, and 130 million USD, respectively.

Other ancillary products in the handicraft industry fetched an export turnover of some 190 million USD.

The US, Europe and Japan have historically been the traditional markets for Vietnam’s handicrafts, making up a huge proportion of the sector’s total exports. However, handicraft exporters have shifted their focus to new markets within BRICS including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Vietnam Handicraft Exporters Association (Vietcraft) General Secretary Le Ba Ngoc said last year, an inflow of handicraft orders from Japan and China dramatically improved the market in Vietnam. The move was primarily attributable to policy changes in China that increased minimum wage for workers and in turn led to higher production costs.

However, Vietnam’s handicraft exports are still far from matching potential, according to Vietcraft. At present, the world market consumes handicraft products estimated at 100 billion USD each year while Vietnam has just 1.5 percent of world market share.

Vietnam’s export value of 1.6 billion USD has been too low compared to the number of 2,790 craft villages.

Vietcraft Vice President Do Van Khoi said due to lack of investment in production technologies and product design, several craft villages and businesses have opted to make low-cost products instead of higher added value items.

Targeting mid and high-end markets

Ba Ngoc warned that to promote advantages and increase export turnover, Vietnamese enterprises should focus on mid-end markets in line with their production capacity, material source and working skills and put off targeting higher end markets until later years. Especially, they should also apply for trademark protection.

The MARD has also devised concrete solutions to accelerate the development of craft villages and boost exports. At the same time, the ministry should take measures to build sustainable material zones with a priority given to specialised cultivation areas.

In addition, the Ministry urged enterprises to develop traditional handicrafts with lower investment capital, high job creation and focus on training human resources to speed up the export of highly added value and creative handicrafts and seek highly lucrative markets.-VNA