India’s handicrafts exports is expected to touch Rs. 17,000 crore in next three years on account of increasing demand in markets like the U.S., Latin America and Africa.

“We are focusing on new markets, which are unexplored or under-explored like in Latin America, Central Asia, Africa and South East Asia. Demand is there for Indian handicrafts items,” Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) Chairman Raj Kumar Malhotra said.

During April-January period of this fiscal, the country’s handicrafts exports stood at Rs. 7,284 crore, an increase of 26.7 per cent over the same period last year.

“I hope that we may end up the fiscal by about Rs. 11,500 crore...and in the next years we hope to touch Rs. 17,000 crore,” Malhotra told reporters here after announcing about the Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair from February 19.

On the impact of global economic recession on the sector, he said that “we are still not out of the woods and that is why we are not setting any ambitious target for the next three years...the sector needs some more time.”

The government is targeting to more than double the country’s merchandise exports to about $500 billion in the next three years.

The main handicrafts items exported from India include metal and wood wares, hand-printed textiles and scarves, embroidered goods, shawls and imitation jewellery.

The U.S. and Europe are the major destination of India’s handicrafts exports. The sector is labour-intensive and employs about 60-70 lakh people.

In the fair, as much as 2,300 exhibitors from across the country are expected to showcase their products. Over 6,500 foreign buyers from 31 countries mainly from Latin America, Central Asia, Africa would participate.

“We are hoping to get orders worth Rs. 800 crore in the fair. Last year we got business of the order of Rs. 500 crore,” he said.

On the forthcoming Budget, the sector has asked the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to exempt the sector from income and service tax.

“EPCH has also asked the Finance Minister to further extend the interest subsidy scheme,” he added. The scheme is expected to end this year.

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