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The Killid Group
Blame Game Ruins Carpet IndustryWritten by Nasrat Ilham in Kabul and Killid provincial reporters
Sunday, 07 August 2011 10:55
Afghanistan's famous carpet industry is in serious crisis. Production and export declined by 75 percent over the last eight years.
Such is the gloomy conclusion of Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce, Ghulam Muhammad Yalaqi, who admitted to Killid that it was a "disaster" but he pinned the responsibility on the global financial crunch.
"Yes, it is a commercial and industrial disaster, but you know that one of its main factors is the collapse of the international economy that has slowed down the demand for luxury goods," the deputy minister said.
Abdul Hadi Farzam, ex-president of the association, said at a meeting on July 27 that carpet production has gone down from 1.5 million square metres to 33,000 square metres.
What are the reasons? Kabul-based producers and traders blame the crisis on the government's failure to provide access to international markets or even facilities for processing, washing and cutting which have shifted to neighbouring Pakistan which has rolled out the red carpet to the Afghan carpet industry.
One of Afghanistan's biggest exports, carpet weaving provides employment to 1.5 million people in the country.
Obaidullah, 30, who makes carpets in his home in Kunduz province, says there are very few carpet weaving centres in the province. "There's a lot of hard work involved; the wage is less, so workers are disappointed."
Afghan becomes Pakistani
Wahid Gul, 33, who owned a carpet weaving factory in Peshawar, Pakistan, but returned to Jalalabad, his home town, says he would like to set up a new business here "but there are no facilities here like in Peshawar". He's in two minds also because he says, "I would need to bring everything from Peshawar, and then take the finished carpet back to Peshawar to sell."
Amanullah owns a carpet shop in the Sancharak Carpet Market in front of Kabul Huzori Chaman. He says, "most Afghan carpets are exported via Pakistan. Our carpets are sold as Pakistani carpets." In return for the huge profits it earns from the Afghan carpet industry, Pakistan has given Afghan carpet traders national identity cards and even subsidies, Amanullah said.
According to him, Afghanistan's hand-knotted carpets are also facing a challenge from the much cheaper machine-made Turkish and Iranian carpets that have swamped the market. "These Turkish and Iranian carpets are widely available in the market . Does the government not tax them? No one buys home made carpets."
Sher Alam is from Juzjan province and a trader of Turkish and Iranian carpets in Kabul. He says, "people cannot buy Afghan carpets that cost between 50 and 60,000 Afs (roughly 1,100 USD), but can buy Turkish and Iranian Carpets for 10,000 Afs (213 USD)."
What the carpet industry needs is better facilities and encouragement through the holding of carpet fairs where producers could bag firm orders, says Abdul Qadir, another carpet trader in Sancharak.
Beegi Qul, a carpet trader of Aqcha District of Juzjan province, says all their carpets are sent to Pakistan because of the better facilities. In addition, Afghan traders are given some money as advance payment, he said.
Blaming each other
Even big carpet producing companies like Tanveen FBMI which exports to many parts of the world, would like the government to open up markets for Afghan carpets. Dr Fahim Peerzada, the company's executive director, says: "Traders are weak at finding markets outside. It is not true there is no market, we have to reach there."
Wahidullah Ghazi Khail, the spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is defensive. He says they have tried their best to assist carpet traders. "The problem of processing has been resolved. We have 11 industrial parks across the country. We have held exhibitions and found markets outside for them." He blames the crisis on poor business planning. "(Carpet) businessmen do not have business plans, it is their problem; we cannot blame the government for it."
The only point he concedes is that wages are low. "Daily expenses have mounted but the wages are still low, that is why the number of workers has decreased and production too."
Currently 97 percent of Afghan carpets are exported from Pakistan to other countries. The Afghan National Traders sell only 3 percent to foreign markets.