Ani Yudhoyono, the first lady, dropped nearly Rp 2 million ($220) on nine pieces of handmade batik as she helped get the country’s biggest handicraft expo of the year off to a rollicking start.
After President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially opened the 14th Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair (Inacraft) on Wednesday at the Jakarta Convention Center, he and Ani, who is known to have a large collection of batik, toured the expo building.
At a booth selling batik from the West Java city of Cirebon, she stopped to pick out several scarves and clothes.
“Ibu Ani bought nine pieces of batik with a total price of Rp 1.935 million. She chose and took them from the shelves herself,” said Erwin Ibrahim, the booth’s owner.
Erwin hopes to sell more than Rp 100 million in batik during the exhibition. He’s hoping that Ani’s purchase will create a buzz around his booth and encourage more people to stop by.
“I just started my batik business a year ago. But I know that demand for batik will continue to grow,” he said.
The five-day event brings about 1,800 domestic and foreign exhibitors to Jakarta to showcase handmade products including clothing, footwear and creative accessories.
Foreign businesspeople taking part come from as far as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Iran and Japan.
The event is organized by the Association of Indonesian Handicrafts Exporters and Producers of Indonesian Handicrafts (Asephi), in coordination with the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.
In his opening remarks, Yudhoyono called on domestic handicraft producers to hone their management skills and the quality of their products, which will help them break into more markets.
“They can also increase their opportunities by taking part in handicraft exhibitions both at home and abroad,” he said.
According to Trade Ministry data, handicraft exports, a significant contributor to the nation’s export total, increased to $659.5 million in 2011, more than 7 percent higher than in 2010 when they reached $614.3 million.
Also present at the event’s opening were Vice President Boediono and his wife, Herawati, who is the chairwoman of the National Handicrafts Organization (Dekranas). Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu and Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo also attended.
Gusmardi Bustami, the national export development director general, said the government expected to see 15 percent growth in transactions at this year’s expo, from Rp 1.4 billion in 2011.
“Expo transactions have demonstrated tremendous growth” since the Trade Ministry began keeping records in 2008, he said.
Mari said the creative industry contributed 7.4 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product, and that the industry has brought more than one million women into the work force.
The annual fair, which will run through Sunday, is expected to attract 250,000 visitors.