Silk textiles on display at the Lao Handicraft Festival.

How can we increase textile exports?
Laos is well known for its beautiful fabrics and the number of producers has increased as export opportunities have grown. But tough competition and a surge in supply has meant a drop in sales for some manufacturers. Vientiane Times went along to the Lao Handicraft Festival recently and asked exhibitors for their thoughts on the situation.

Ms Khaysy Sorphapmixay, an exhibitor from Vientiane: I love traditional textiles and try to preserve and promote traditional patterns in the pieces I exhibit and sell. I learnt to weave at a very young age and am happy that I can have an income from it to help my family. I sell my products at reasonable prices and can do okay just here in Laos. My work isn’t easy. It takes time and patience and attention to detail to make quality products. I export some textiles to Japan and I’d like to sell my products to other countries too. It’s difficult to find buyers in other countries because my products are handmade so it’s a slow process.  It is difficult to compete with other countries whose factories make things at a very cheap cost. But with more exposure of Lao products I think demand may increase.

Mr Xayphone Phetvongxay, an exhibitor from Vientiane: Traditional textile production is a good job. I’m very happy that my family makes a contribution to textile production and preservation. We have exhibited our products for a long time and many people show interest in them. Yes, we earn a decent income which helps my family. Government policy and assistance in poverty reduction has helped us a lot and it’s good that they have helped promote and advertise our textile products across various media platforms. Opportunities to exhibit our products are also very beneficial. Anything that can be done to help us sell out products in other countries is welcome. I think a fund should be established that provides textile makers with loans at reasonable rates.  This way people like me might be able to be more competitive internationally.

Ms Buasavanh Sitthivan, an exhibitor from Xaysettha district, Vientiane: My family has made and sold traditional textiles since 2007.  We make many kinds of products and they are quite well known. Wedding outfits are the most popular item we make. Currently, it seems there are more producers out there and fewer people buying. I used to export scarves to France, Sweden and Switzerland but they stopped their orders, deciding to buy products from factories instead. Our products are made by hand and are generally more expensive than items made on an assembly line. In the past I’ve also exhibited my products in other countries such as Japan, France, and Thailand but it’s expensive to do that and right now I don’t have enough money. Money doesn’t go as far as it used to.  The cost of living is a factor in our declining profits. I would like the government and people involved in textile production to work together and come up with ways to make things easier for us.

Ms Buaphet Thammaseng, an exhibitor from Tonpheung district, Bokeo province: My group makes and sells traditional cotton textiles from the Tai Leu ethnic group. We export some products to Thailand. I learnt about textile weaving from my mother and I love it. It brings in a good income for my family and it has helped us and other families in the community to move out of poverty. There are more than 100 people in my group. I regularly exhibit my products in Vientiane and the provinces. It would be good if the government could help textile producers access more markets in other countries.  We also need more help to make production here more efficient and less expensive.  There is so much potential in the products that originate from Laos.  The things that we make and the styles we use are very attractive and quite special.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update November 19, 2018)

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