0324 GMT January 28, 2020
Despite Iran’s enormous capacities in making handicrafts which has turned it into one of the main three producers of such products in the world, the country has not yet managed to achieve an ideal level in terms of exports.
Majid Reza Hariri, the president of the Iranian Handicraft Exporter Association, is convinced that Iran’s handicraft sector has such huge untapped export potentials which, if exploited properly, will lead to an amazing transformation in the country’s production and exports of such cultural and artistic items.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Hariri, who is also the chairman of Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce, added that developing the domestic sector as well as promoting the country’s handicrafts in a way that they gain greater international reputation will, in addition to generating substantial revenues, help resolve a large number of Iran’s social and economic problems, such as low employment and high rural-to-urban migration and increase the sustainability of rural communities.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: How do you assess Iran’s current level of handicraft exports?
MAJID REZA HARIRI: Figures by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) show that despite experiencing relative ups and downs, exports from the sector over the past six years have consistently reflected an increasing trend compared to other domestic sectors.
Nevertheless, market realities show that a major portion of the Iranian handicrafts sold to other countries are not exported through the Islamic Republic’s customs offices, but in the form of souvenirs purchased by tourists and transported outside the country. Figures pertaining to this kind of trade fail to be part of the statistics released by the IRICA.
However, it has to be acknowledged that this type of handicraft exports from Iran has faced a decline as the number of foreign tourists to the country has decreased over the past 12 months and their types have also changed. Currently, most of the tourists coming to Iran are looking for adventure and not willing to spend much money.
What is the present annual value of Iran’s handicraft exports?
At present, Iran exports handicrafts valued at $200 million per annum. The figure, however, reaches up to $500 million per year if one includes the export of carpets, precious stones and decorative furniture. This figure is, nevertheless, not included in the official statistics released by the IRICA. Although following China and India, Iran currently ranks third in the world in terms of production and diversity of handicrafts, it fails to enjoy a superior international status in terms of exporting such products.
The sector in Iran has huge untapped export potentials, which, if exploited properly, would lead to an amazing transformation in the production and export of handicrafts in the country.
What can be done to help boost Iran’s handicraft exports?
To achieve this, primarily, professional traders, whose number currently fails to be significant in Iran’s handicraft sector, are required to enter this field. Secondly, big corporations with sufficient capital should be formed to manage exports of handicrafts. In addition, more concentrated efforts are needed in the field of exporting such products.
If these prerequisites are met, Iran would be able to easily increase its export of handicrafts to $2 billion per annum in five to 10 years.
Compared to their foreign counterparts, Iranian handicrafts enjoy a superiority in terms of diversity and price, which gives them a relative advantage in international markets.
What other advantages can increased production and export of handicrafts have for Iran?
It can help resolve a large number of the country’s social and economic problems, such as low employment and high rural-to-urban migration. In the domestic handicraft sector, a job can be created with up to $700 in investments.
What is behind the slow pace of investments in the field of handicraft production and exports in Iran?
This is because, currently, a major part of Iran’s handicrafts are sold only in the domestic market. This comes as the decline in the people’s purchasing power has adversely impacted domestic production of handicrafts. Supply in this sector is faced with no problem and can be increased 10 times; but we are beset with problems on the demand side due to ineffective marketing.
In addition, the export of raw materials constitute a major part of overseas sales. In this field, we are dealing with major companies that purchase our raw materials and process them into products with added-value. However, in the field of exporting handicrafts, we are directly dealing with consumers. They are supposed to keep our products in their homes as a symbol of Iran. Thus, to generate greater international enthusiasm for purchasing our products, we must present a positive diplomatic and cultural image to the world, which is a political and cultural venture, not an economic one.
What are the major target markets for Iran’s handicrafts?
In terms of quality, European and Southeast Asian countries. However, in terms of quantity, neighboring states, such as Iraq, are the major importers of Iran’s handicrafts. I personally believe that we can find lucrative markets within the European Union as well as in countries such as Russia, China and Japan.