China Focus: From Peru to China, fluffy alpaca dolls pave way for prosperous life


SHANGHAI, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- In the Peruvian Andes about 2,000 meters above the sea level, artisan Oswaldo Mamani and his family are busy making alpaca dolls, as these handmade products will be displayed at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE).

Peru is home to alpacas, a domesticated camelid mammal living in the high-altitude Andes with soft and lightweight wool widely used to produce alpaca clothing such as jumpers and scarfs as well as alpaca dolls. The alpaca industry is vital to Peru, as many Peruvian families earn their livelihood by raising alpacas or selling alpaca souvenirs.

Mamani's family owned a small workshop and used to sell their alpaca products only in Peru, offering limited varieties and earning low profits.

"We never imagined one day our products would be sold far away in China," said Mamani.

Ma Yuxia and her Peruvian business partner Alejandra Bedregal introduced Mamani's alpaca dolls to Chinese consumers who have shown a great interest in high-quality imported goods.

According to Ma, Peruvian artisans are "born to be designers" with a deep affection for alpacas. During the past two CIIEs, visitors found Peruvian handmade alpaca dolls so striking that Ma's booth became a major crowd-puller.

Ma, who had worked in South America after graduating from university, got the idea of doing business with alpaca products during a trip to Peru.

Initially, she focused on alpaca clothing. In 2016, Ma visited several local alpaca textile companies to explore business channels where she met Alejandra Bedregal, who then worked for one such company.

When visiting markets in Peru, Ma was also attracted by fluffy alpaca dolls for their cute appearance, smooth texture and traditional Peruvian patterns, and she bought some back for her clients in China.

"Surprisingly, my clients were more interested in the alpaca dolls than the alpaca clothing that I intended to introduce. One of the clients even ordered 1,000 alpaca dolls," Ma recalled.

The biggest challenge in producing 1,000 alpaca dolls was to find a suitable producer and standardize product design.

Unlike mass-produced products, most alpaca dolls in Peru are handmade goods manufactured by local artisans in their family workshops, without uniform design requirement, said Bedregal, adding that it was hard to find partners as making 1,000 identical alpaca dolls meant enormous work for local artisans.

"We set several requirements for the alpaca dolls in terms of their size, height and facial features to make these products popular in China," said Ma.

A thousand alpaca dolls were quickly sold out in the Chinese market, encouraging Ma and Bedregal to set up their own brand "Warmpaca."

Their brand has now entered shopping malls in many Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, and has forged cooperation with three family workshops of about 60 artisans in Peru.

Ma attributed the stellar sales performance of alpaca dolls in China partly to quality-sensitive Chinese consumers. "As China is gradually becoming a moderately prosperous society, Chinese people prefer better living standards."

Orders of Alpaca dolls from China generated jobs and steady incomes for Peruvian artisans who usually live in underdeveloped areas. Mamani has added another story to his house especially for the production of these dolls.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted transportation and trade in Peru, Mamani and his fellow artisans have been making every effort to produce alpaca dolls for the upcoming CIIE.

"Doing business with China has greatly improved the quality of our products as well as our lives. I hope that we will get to know more about China," Mamani said.

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