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Colombian craftwork exported to Europe and United States

TLC Colombia - EE.UU.
Proexport identified that buyers are looking for products with historical background; therefore, they must include information about the craftsman and the place of origin.

María Cristina Gómez, a craftswoman from Guajira, has never traveled out of the country, but her products like mochilas, chinchorros, mantas and manillas, all manufactured following the Wayuu tradition, are exported to England, Japan and United States.

To her, who arrived to Expoartesanías 2012 from Manaure to present the work of the 350 craftsmen from the province of La Guajira, who are grouped in a cooperative named Jalianaya, "the key is to tell the story. Not only we sell our craftwork, but we are also presenting part of our culture through our products ".

This is precisely what international entrepreneurs are looking for. According to María Claudia Lacouture, President of Proexport Colombia, "they really appreciate it when stories are told. Labels must contain information describing the product, the way it was manufactured, its origin and the details of the craftsmen".

With this premise, Proexport has identified business opportunities for Colombian craftwork in the United States and in European countries like Spain and Germany.

"It is important to go to fairs. In Germany, for instance, one of the most important fairs is Ambiente. That’s where we met our main clients ", indicated Ana María Piedrahita, from Sapia, a firm from Bogota that started in 1997 with orange peel toys, which was collected when visiting the homes of her neighbors in a suburb called Pontevedra. "We grew when we started to export, because our clients started to order more and more. With time, we had to get the orange peel from juice sellers and at Corabastos", she explained.

This recycling concept helped her gain new clients and now, with the support of 100 craftwork families in Bogota, the firm is currently exporting to Italy, France, Germany, Australia, Austria, United States, Holland, Switzerland and Norway. "We also understood that we had to diversify products. At present, apart from the orange peel products, we are also selling Tagua custom jewelry and leather handbags ".

One of her German clients, Greta Herbst, from Contigo Fairtrade Shop, stressed the iportance of offering products with the background history. "This is what we sell, because we care about the culture. Besides, as Europeans, we like sustainable products made of recycled elements".

Her company, which distributes products to 800 shops in Germany and Austria, is exclusively focused on hand-made products. "We have four suppliers in Colombia, where we mainly buy jewelry, toys and candelabra".

She also highlighted the importance of fair trading. "We are looking for long-term relations and, therefore, we prefer to pay fair prices to our suppliers. Therefore, we hope they do the same with those they work with. We appreciate transparency".

Doing Businesses in Expoartesanías

On December 11, 12 and 13, Proexport arranged trading visits with 55 buyers from 18 countries, jointly invited with Artesanías de Colombia and the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá. In total, the stands of 194 Colombian participants will be visited, and nearly 661 commercial meetings will be sustained.

The participation is led by te United States with 22 entrepreneurs, followed by Fance (5), Spain and Holland (4), Dominican Republic (3), Switzerland and Canada (2), and one participant each from Germany, Austria, Barbados, Chile, Greece, Norway, Panama, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, Russia and Venezuela.

Profiles include design product and craftwork wholesalers and retailers, specialized decoration and fashion shops, jewelry and fashion designers.

Some Figures

During 2011, according to information issued by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and Dane data, craftwork exports represented a 6% growth compared to the prior year, reporting a total of US$60 million, US$3.5 million above the trading figure reported in 2010.

In the January – September 2012 period, exports reached US$47.7 million, 8% more than the figure reported in the same period of 2011 (US$44.2 million).

The main destinations included United States (US$17.3 million), Japan (US$6.9 million) and Brazil (US$3.2 million).

And, by provinces, Atlantico was the leader, with an interest of 36.9% over the total. It was followed by Antioquia (24.3%,), Bogotá (18%) and Valle del Cauca (13.2%).