Indian hand-woven carpets are a hit among the Chinese when it comes to trade through Shipki La, the mountain pass connecting Himachal's remote Kinnaur district to China's Ngrai prefecture.
Unlike last year, when Indian tobacco topped the trading list, this time hand-woven carpets made up for Rs 2.76 crore of the Rs 7.6 crore worth of goods exported to the neighbouring country through the mountain pass which is open between June and November every year.
Indian hand-woven blankets too were among the favourites of Chinese traders. More than 9,000 blankets valuing Rs 84 lakh were exported.
As China concentrates on machine-made carpets due to labour shortage, an industries official said there was a large demand for Indian handmade carpets there. The Indian government had been insisting china to reduce import duty onf carpets from 20 % to 5%.
Though the Indian government had banned livestock import from China this year, 22,659-kilogram wool worth Rs 3.32 crore - sheared from Chigu, a goat reared in high-altitude areas - was imported. In all, 2,000 Chigu goats, which are known for their wool and soft meat, were brought from China last year.
Other imported items included: readymade clothes worth Rs 31.8 lakh, shoes worth Rs 9.31 lakh, and blankets and carpets worth Rs 5 lakh.
Trade figures show that the Chinese have a sweet tooth for Indian jaggery and misri. Crystal sugar weighing 17,226 kilograms worth Rs 6.26 lakhs were exported by Kinnauri traders. Besides, 16,988 kilograms of spices worth Rs 2.76 lakh were also exported. Rice, utensils, tea, herbal medicines, dry fruits and religious products too were exported. Last year, trade between the two neighbours registered a record high of Rs 1.4 crore, the highest since trade through the route resumed in 1994.
Silk Route and its post-Independence history
Shipki La was part of the ancient silk route established during the rule of China's Han dynasty. However, following the Indo-China war of 1962, the route was closed. It was reopened in 1994. At that time, goods worth Rs 11 lakh were exported and about 90 traders from Indian side visited China.
In 2012, 45 traders from Kinnaur made 180 trips since September, when trade started officially. Last year, goods worth Rs 90 lakh were exported and Rs 62 lakh imported.