ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan Furniture Council (PFC) Sunday urged the federal government to declare furniture industry, a tax free sector till 2025 as this could give a major boost to furniture exports in the country besides making furniture industry risk free and generating new jobs and stimulating local business simultaneously.

Chairing a meeting of board of directors here at PFC office, its chief executive Mian Kashif Ashfaq asked the furniture exporters to focus on export of non-traditional products and explore the new markets, said a press release issued here Sunday.

He urged the government to introduce a skill development programme for the export-oriented furniture industry with a view to promote the country's value added sector. "I believe that the tax exempted furniture sector in Pakistan will enliven the economy in general. New jobs will be created and production levels will increase, making economy actors happy. We have already seen the signs of a rebound in the economy," he said.

He also demanded the government to impose ban on import of furniture items to fully exploit the potential of the local industry which would not only accelerate the pace of economic activities but also helpful to save a major chunk of the foreign exchange.

Kashif said the local manufacturers are facing challenges due to heavy imports of furniture. Chinese furniture has also hit the local industry; resultantly, the sales of locally manufactured household furniture have gone down by reasonable percent. Pressure on the domestic industry has immensely increased as other countries like Thailand and Korea have started exporting extensively to Pakistan.

He said the government should patronize the local industry by discouraging import of furniture items. Rather, he said, the government should announce a package of incentives to local manufacturers so that they could enhance the volume of their export items to gain their significant share in international market. "The variety and traditional expertise of woodworkers and craftsmen has a huge potential for exports, and can cater not only to local market but also to the wealthy looking for unique furniture items at international market," he added.

He said prices of all raw materials used in making furniture which include chipboard, timber, foam, polish chemical materials, color paints and hard ware have increased. Timber production on the other hand has gone down drastically because of unchecked deforestation," he added.

Kashif said a well established furniture industry would create foreign exchange, skilled work force, create potential job and above all make Pakistan furniture industry as a globally recognized leader.

PFC chief said being furniture producers it is our responsibility that authenticity and mastering of raw materials should be made the cornerstones for the competitiveness of 'niche' or 'ethnic' furniture at the high-end of the market.

"High perceived value for price, timely deliveries and proper after-sales service are needed for keeping Pakistani furniture a winner. Quality assurance must be improved and Pakistani furniture brands strengthened," he added.

He said that labor of this industry has great skills and potential and if used properly than there would be no hurdle for Pakistan to be among the countries which were best exporters of the furniture.

"Pakistan furniture industry has made great strides over the past recent years. Owing to a growing interior industry that have paved way for skilled workers, furniture manufacturers and interior designers have benchmarks that has attracted foreign clientele," he added.

Earlier Secretary PFC Aqul Sardar presented detailed report on the expenditures for approval and discussed the tentative dates for holding 3-day 10th Interiors Expo at Islamabad.