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Sunday, 2 February 2014

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Handicraft sector targets wider export markets

Traditional industries and small enterprise sector has to cope with the changing environment. With globalisation and trade liberalisation, it is important to look at these sectors not as 'protection and promotion' but as a driving force for 'growth and development'.


A handicraft item made of wood

Enhancing national and international competitiveness is important for this sector to face emerging challenges. The challenges are being addressed through the Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Ministry's (TISEDM) five-year strategic plan, said Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Development Director M. C. Gamage.

He said that the Ministry with the Palmyrah Development Board, National Crafts Council and National Design Centre has taken the initiative to produce handicrafts targeting the export market.

A traditional industry or enterprise can be sustained and capture a good market when it moves with modern technology and innovation. The ministry has launched a program to train craftsmen to develop market based handicraft products.

TISEDM facilitates micro, small and medium scale industries under the Mahinda Chintana national development program.

The Ministry and institutions under its purview encourage the development of small enterprises concerned with handicraft.

It has also taken steps to develop micro enterprises under the Divi Neguma national program, Director of Small and Medium Industries Development, Gamage told Sunday Observer Business.

He said that the handicrafts sector provides a means of livelihood to a large number of people. The sector will help attract a large amount of foreign exchange through exports as Sri Lankan handicrafts are in demand in overseas markets.

He said that the adoption of new technology and novel products is the need of the hour and the market can be expanded overseas.

He said that the Ministry serves cottage industries or small enterprises which are set up by people in rural areas with the support of the Ministries of Industries and Commerce, Technology and Research, Youth Affairs and Skills Development, State Resources and Enterprise Development, Coconut Development, the Janatha Estate Development and 16 institutions which come under the ministries.

Assistance is provided to the industries in the form of technology transfer, product or business development advisory services, access to finance and the setting up of market links.

The Industrial Development Board, the National Crafts Council, the National Design Centre and the Palmyrah Development Board, the Industrial Technology Institute, the National Engineering Research and Development Centre (NERD) and Vidatha Resources Centres and other related agencies trained 18,000 persons under the Divi Neguma program.

Materials and basic tools worth Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 were given to each person to develop as a self-sustaining cottage industrialist.

Emphasis has been laid on product development, designing of new products, gift items and souvenirs to cater to the tourist sector.

The Ministry has initiated many development programs to introduce modern technology and to find markets, Gamage said.

"We have skilled workers and the ministry provides assistance to craftsmen to improve their industries. Many of our craftsmen can produce attractive items with artistic value. Their economy will also improve while contributing to the national economy.

Small Medium Enterprises (SME) have been identified as an important strategic sector to promote economic growth and social development in Sri Lanka. It generates high economic growth especially rural development by reducing unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Small and traditional industries can be strengthened through the formation of clusters with large organisations in the same sector. This could be done through subcontracting and buyback arrangements with large organisations and this initiative is supported by the relevant ministries and agencies, he said.

The TISEDM conducted 25 technology awareness programs in 2012 in each district with industrial cluster ministries and District Secretariats. The two-day programs showcased various products, such as food processing, choir, gift items, cane products, chemical products, leather products and other handicraft items, Gamage said.

Cottage level handicraft products and were also demonstrated, he said.

The program included details regarding banking facilities and export opportunities available to attract villagers to the cottage industry. It also serves as a forum to develop entrepreneurship among children, youth, university students and potential businessmen.

The Ministry will initiate a national program to improve the kitul industry and create self-employment opportunities and thereby increase the income of the people, Gamage said.

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