Kerala Mela in Washington DC

In the recent Kerala Mela held in Washington DC to celebrate 50 years of the formation of Kerala, hundreds of handicraft items from Kerala were sold to American visitors. Vinson Palathingal, the organiser, told me that there is a burgeoning market for Kerala (and Indian) handicraft items in the USA. We know that already there are pockets of handicraft manufacturing communities in Gujarat and UP who have been able to export products in an organised manner to the US and Europe and become prosperous. Tagging on to opportunities of globalisation smartly and trying to satisfy the hunger for natural and organic products in developed countries, Kerala can reap great economic benefits from globalised trade. Providing health care at a reasonable cost to denizens of richer countries, herbal exports, etc., offer avenues of wealth creation (All these, however, need top-level marketing and not hoarse sloganeering, mass rallies and police station assaults). We ourselves had an experience of the hollowness of the fears of globalisation in the recent past. While the tariff barrier was reduced, the threat to Kerala’s cash crops did not come from the US nor Europe but from fellow Asian countries like Vietnam, Srilanka, Indonesia, etc. But the initial decline in prices ended soon and the agricultural products rebounded to old high prices. The opening up of trade also made our cash croppers modernize and upgrade the cropping technique to reduce costs. We must ask the question, “Why should not the Keralites produce cash crops at competitive costs vis-à-vis the Vietnamese and the Srilankans?”.

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