Srinagar, Oct 22 (UNI) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said sustained aggressive export promotion measures would be taken to ensure quantum jump in the earnings from handicrafts sector, the largest employment provider in the valley.
Speaking after inaugurating the first Kashmir Expo-2007 Buyer-Seller Meet here, he said the main purpose behind the event was to target focussed buyers.
Mr Azad called for organising shows on product specific themes on regular intervals and target specific buyers from different countries, saying Kashmir handicrafts were today a general terminology with overseas buyers not able to source products as per their requirement and choice.
The Chief Minister said he wanted to establish specific integrated approach for cottage crafts, which was currently lacking.
''I want to bring buyers from all over the world round the year and create new marketing opportunities for cottage sector.'' Describing today's event as a beginning and a unique partnership between the state government, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said it would provide confidence for hosting such meets in future.
Mr Azad said handicraft business had woven the social fabric of the Kashmir valley and dominated its cultural ethos. Handicrafts were not just a business but the manifestation of culture in Kashmir, he added.
''If tourism had brought world to Kashmir, its handicrafts had taken the Valley to the world. Kashmir had 32 practicing handicrafts which was more than most other countries,'' the Chief Minister said.
He said handicraft sector employed about five lakh people and if those engaged in the trade of handicrafts and handlooms were to be added to this figure the number would go up to 7-8 lakh.
Mr Azad said contrary to the rest of the country, the growth in this sector has been relatively modest in Jammu and Kashmir. The state's handicrafts export had reached Rs 1,500 crore which was five per cent of the country's total export of handicrafts, he added.
''This is not even peanuts compared to the total world trade in handicrafts of 235 billion dollars.'' Enumerating important measures and initiatives taken by the state government to promote handicrafts, the Chief Minister said 750 training centres were set up besides starting the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology, the Craft Development Institute, a Crafts Museum and a Craft Haat here.
He described marketing, especially international, as the biggest constraint in the handicrafts sector. ''We still have not been able to brand, let alone patent our specific designs and products.'' The Meet, an integrated international marketing initiative to promote exports of Kashmir handicrafts, was attended by about 50 businessmen from the US, Australia, Europe and Middle East besides exporters of Jammu and Kashmir.