LAHORE - SALMAN ABDUHU - Pakistan’s carpet exports have witnessed a huge decline of more than 50 per cent during the last five years as hand-made carpets export has fallen to $140 million from $300 million, depriving almost 0.5 million people of their employment.

The acute shortage of electricity, bad law and order, ever-soaring inflation, shortage of skilled labour force and high mark-up rate are the reasons of sharp decline in carpet exports.

Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PCMEA) Chairman Sheikh Khalid Saeed said that industry is in dire need of the government help, which can provide it at least 3 per cent ad-hock relief on carpet export to revive the ailing industry, besides helping 0.5 million unemployed people to return to work.

He highlighted that because of global recession and declining exports, the industry needs some concession from the government side in areas of credit financing and bank loans. Carpet sector had remained one of the main export sectors earlier. About 1.5 million people are affiliated with the industry, he added. He proposed that by holding special exhibitions for the carpet industry, the exports could get a huge relief.

He blamed shortage of skilled labour, inefficiency of foreign trade missions and high cost of doing business in Pakistan for the crisis that the industry is presently undergoing.

Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association exhibitions committee convener Aslam Tahir, expressing concerns over massive decline in carpet exports, said that decline is primarily caused by foreign travel advisory, who are unable to convince the buyer to visit Pakistan, coupled with disturbed supply line. Small-scale factories in rural areas could help a lot to give a boost to the industry, he said.

Carpet business will be very challenging in the future as we face a tough competition from India in the global arena and the cost of production in this business is constantly going up,” he added.

Eastern Europe and South America are the potential regions of carpet export. There are some traditional workers of carpet manufacturing industry in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, interior Sindh and Punjab, who need proper training and financing to maintain proper supply chain of the product, he proposed. This small-scale manufacturing will not only improve supply side but will also create employment opportunities in small towns. He said that assist the help exporters to focus on quality improvement and bringing innovations into the industry to make the product more competitive in the international market.

Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association exhibitions committee coordinator and ex-chairman Tahir Nazir Khan Kooki said that the frequent increases in the prices of energy are making Pakistani products uncompetitive in the international market and Pakistan is losing the international markets to China, India and Iran. Although the oil prices were linked to international prices of oil, the benefit of decline in oil prices has not been passed on to the consumers for quite a long time.

He said that Trade Development Authority should be revamped and private sector representation should be there so that the exports could be increased.

Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association former chairman was of the view that the non-exploration of new markets, untrained labour and high interest rates are a few from the multiple reasons dogging the carpet sector.  He said that the lack of infrastructure, technology and non-availability of carpet institutes were damaging the whole industry and the government should immediately divert its attention towards these issues so that the industry, which retains over 1.5 million poor workers, could be brought out of crisis.

He said foreign missions can play a very important role in bringing a turnaround by educating the Pakistani carpet manufacturers and exporters about fast global-changing trends and giving awareness about the latest techniques and technology being deployed by the developed world.  He said Pakistan is amongst the world’s largest producers and exporters of hand-knotted carpets.

It is also a major source of employment in the rural areas but the government quarters concerned are not taking interest in this regard, and therefore, the industry is facing a serious shortage of labour as 80 per cent of its total workforce comprising Afghan refugees has repatriated to their homeland and there is a dire need for this sector.

He said the poor participation of Pakistani exhibitors in international carpet exhibitions is also scaling down the export of the carpets.

He said Pakistani exhibitors should project their products at international levels in a winsome manner so that they may attract more and more foreign buyers.