Despite Kashmir witnessed almost five-month shutdown in 2016, the handicraft exports from Kashmir have increased by 8.6 percent year-on-year to Rs 1,151.12 crore in financial year 2016-17.
While the unrest last year had resulted in complete stoppage of economic activity in Kashmir, handicraft export figures for recently concluded financial year 2016-17 obtained from the Directorate of Handicrafts indicates a significant increase of almost Rs 92 crores compared to exports of the previous financial year.
Even though most artisans and exporters were badly hit by the shutdowns, restrictions and internet gag for several consecutive months but spurt in exports during the later half of the financial year (post-unrest) has resulted in a northwards movement in overall exports. Experts believe that the handicrafts production mostly remains uninterrupted by the situation in Kashmir, as the manufacturing by the artisans is based in their homes only.
According to the Directorate of Handicrafts recently released figures the handicrafts exports in 2016-17 witnessed Rs 92 crore increase to Rs 1,151.12 crores from Rs 1,059.41 crore in 2015-16. However, the figures show that the handicraft export are much blow the pre-2014 flood mark of Rs 1,600 crore.
In 2016-17, the bulk of the goods were send outside India in the last four months of the year where as the first 8 months upto the end of November remained slow.
After a sluggish summer, exports increased during the Christmas and New Year period which is traditionally a period when demand increases, said exporter and member of Committee of Administration, Carpet Export Promotion Council, JK region, Sheikh Ashiq.
Ashiq said increase in exports is an encouraging development for the fragile handicraft export industry which is "coming to terms after last few years of upheaval due to floods etc."
Pertinently, the official figures suggest that exports of carpets during the recently concluded financial year is worth Rs 369.81 crores, shawls is Rs 304.5 crores, crewel is Rs 414.11 crores, paper machie is Rs 50.36 crores while exports of wood carving items have clocked Rs 7.50 crores.
Otherexports that includes namda, copper ware and silverware witnessed exports worth Rs 5.29 crores, it said.
Assistant Director, Directorate of Handicrafts, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah said among products which have witnessed a sharp increase in exports include chain stitch products which has seen increase in exports by 30-40 percent. "In terms of value, carpet export, especially the high-knottage carpets has also increased ," Shah said.
According to President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( KCCI) Mushtaq Ahmad Wani fulfillment of pending orders of the 2016 summer by exporters during later part of the financial year has resulted in the growth in exports.
"The growth is encouraging and we hope the handicrafts sector exports which had been shrinking in the last few years will see a revival," Wani said.