Fine Art exports to Eastern Europe increace soon

Ha Noi, Oct.19 (VNA) -- With the legal breakthrough in exportation to once-booming East European markets made during Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's recent trip, Viet Nam hoped to record USD 1 billion in fine art export turnover by 2005, compared to the USD 350 million expected this year.

In the '70s and '80s, East Europe was the major market for Vietnamese fine art articles. It accounted for 53.4 percent of the nation's total sales abroad.

The loss of this market in 1986 caused the local production to stagnate, leaving workhands at traditional crafts villages jobless. The recent rebound of this traditional market still posed a number of obstacles, especially in the methods of payment, which, luckily, were partially solved during Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's recent visit to countries in the area, including Russia, Bulgaria and Belarus

The art products are made mostly from locally-sourced raw materials: a mere 3-5 percent of inputs are imports. Meanwhile, net earnings in hard currencies always make up between 95 and 97 percent of their gross export values.

These figures make more sense if a comparision is made. Take garments and footwear. Despite large export turnovers, these industries can earn only about 25 percent of export values after balance of payments for imported raw materials.

Another major advantage is the abundant and skilled workforce in traditional crafts villages. Such villages now face the redundancy of at least 7 million skilled artisans.

At present, for each USD 1 million earned from the export of fine art articles, 3,000 - 4,000 jobs are kept or created, mostly in rural traditional craft villages. That is 10 times the number of jobs created by the same export value of cashew nuts. So, with the export value of USD 300-350 million expected for this year, fine art articles would bring in good incomes for between 500,000 and 600,000 workhands, or even 1 million if odds and ends jobs are included.

That's good news for the Government's employment generation schemes as a glance is given to the programme for one million tonnes of sugar this year. The project is mainly aimed at generating 60,000 jobs for the industrial sector and another 600,000 jobs for the agricutural sector.

Viet Nam's fine arts boast a time and honour-rich history dating back to the 6th century. They helped the formation of a number of booming trade centres during the feudal (11th-18th centuries) and French times, like Van Don port in Ha Noi, Hien street in Hung Yen province, Thuan An rivermouth in the former imperial capital city of Hue and Hoi An ancient quarter in Quang Nam province, which have now been listed as traditional towns or historic relics for preservation and of tourist interest.

In recent years, those products have become available in more than 50 countries and territories the world over. Some special pieces produced several hundred years ago are on show at world famous museums.

With their historic value and the current breakthrough in the major market - Eastern Europe - fine arts can expect a bright future for their life abroad and be sure of their 8th place in the top ten list of the nation's hard currency earners.

The country plans to earn between USD 900 million and USD 1 billion from the export of fine art articles by 2005.

In addition to restoration of the traditional market in Eastern Europe, the sector plans to gear porcelainware, its second largest hard currency earner, to imitate artifacts of several hundred years ago to take a larger hold in the West European, Southeast Asian and North American markets