Global crisis wearing on Indonesia’s handicraft industry
Local artisan Made Widiani Suwarna says her orders have been steadily decreasing for two years.
The story could not have been more different, however, when she launched her jewelry, souvenirs and spa products business in 2000.
She recalled the days when she and her 15 employees often worked overtime to fill large orders. This boon period lasted until 2006, despite the financial hardship that swept Bali following the 2002 and 2005 bombings.
However, her business then turned stagnant, and was strongly hit by the economic crisis in 2008.
“The last crisis affected America and Europe mostly. This affected my business because many of my customers are Europeans, who own business networks in Bali or employ people to search and select local handicrafts to be sold overseas,” said the Denpasar-based artisan.
Now she only receives one or two orders every month. She also cut her permanent staff from 15 to just two. “I only hire more when I receive a lot of orders.”
She said she hoped that the current financial crisis would end soon so that her business could recover.
She creates cases from cardboard boxes, layered with recycled papers, dry leaves, batik cloth and many other ornaments, depending on the orders she gets.
Thousands of her creations have been sold overseas as packaging for jewelry, souvenirs, spa products and chocolate.
Kadek Kerta Rusmana, a wood sculptor from Gianyar, and Putu Suandewi, who makes souvenirs and accessories from silkworm cocoons, shared similar stories.
Although they did not export their products, they sold many products to brokers and whole-sale buyers who then sold them overseas.
“The problem is the financial situation in our market countries, which has affected the consumer spending of the people there. We can’t do anything except wait for this crisis to be over,” said Suwandewi, adding that she felt lucky because her business in the domestic market was still good.
Rusmana added that he would still create wood sculptures and would improve new ideas.
Gede Darmaja, head of the provincial Industry and Trade Agency, agreed that the global financial crisis currently affecting most of Bali’s export target countries had created worry among local artisans about the potential for long-lasting impacts on their businesses.
“Our main targets for exports are America, Europe and Japan, especially for handicrafts. The crisis is not over yet, and it makes them worried.”
The impacts on the island’s key business sector can be clearly seen in the decreasing export of Balinese handicrafts in the first semester of this year compared to the same period last year.
Those exports were down 17.72 percent, equivalent to US$99.5 million. The export value of industrial goods and agriculture products also decreased from US$273 million to US$257 million.
“We continue to expand our exports to new markets, such as Asian countries and other parts of the world. The Middle East has good prospects, so we hope that political conflicts there will soon be over so that we can expand to the countries as well,” Darmaja said.
Ida Bagus Upawana Manuaba, coordinator of the center of small and medium enterprises at the Denpasar administration, said the municipality administration had helped the artisans optimize business in the domestic market, including by helping them participate in handicraft exhibitions in other areas, such as Jakarta and Batam.