A shortage of workers, skyrocketing costs and harsher competition from foreign rivals, especially China and India, are handicapping Vietnam's handicrafts industry, Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade deputy director Dao Thu Vinh recently told the press.

This is despite a steady growth rate of 11 to 15 percent in business in the last decade, reflected in exports which have jumped from 200 million USD in 2000 to more than 1.5 billion USD last year.

Vietnamese handicrafts are now shipped to 120 countries and territories with the US , Russia , Japan , the Republic of Korea and Taiwan being the biggest customers.

"However, out-of-date technology, low production capacity and weak designs have become a problem," she said.

However, she said in recent years, the department has helped handicraft makers design unique handicraft products, and organised overseas business trips for firms to seek new importers.

From November 8 to 12, the department will join Hanoi Industrial Promotion and Development Consultancy Centre and Bac Ha Trade and Media Group in running the Hanoi Craft Show 2011.

" Hanoi 's first handicrafts exhibition will be a good chance for producers in the north to reach international markets," Vinh said.

The show is expected to attract 300 businesses, showcasing pottery and porcelain, wooden and bamboo-made handicrafts as well as silk.

The management board will also offer new handicraft designs for firms interested, said Le Ba Ngoc, vice chairman of the Vietnam Handicraft Exporters Association.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, experts from Spain and France will advise on ways to produce better designs.

A conference will also be held on opportunities available in the United States and northern Europe .

There are about 1,400 craft villages across the nation. They provide jobs for 70,000 workers and produce 300 different products, including those made from bamboo, pottery, and precious stones./.