Pakistan’s Carpet Industry Faces Huge Challenges

As one of the largest segments in the global home textile industry, carpet industry has a long history with great reputation in Pakistan. The origin of Pakistani handmade carpet industry can be traced back to the 11th century, since then, Pakistan has always been one of the leading and most popular carpet suppliers in the global home textile market, thanks to its exquisite design, subtle elegance, attractive colours and workmanship in its carpet manufacturing. However, Pakistan’s carpet industry is losing its share in the global market over the recent decades, mainly due to lack of government support.


According to the recent report from Pakistani news site Dawn, Pakistan’s export value of handmade carpet declined by over 50% over the last decade – shrinking from US$278million in 2005-06 to US$97.7million in 2015-16. The downward trend also happened in its carpet export volume as it fell to 1,922,000 square metres in 2015-16 from 2,493,000 square metres in previous year, marking a drop of nearly 23%.


According to the Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PCMEA), the country currently has around 150,000 – 200,000 carpet looms and employs around 200,000-250,000 weavers, while manufacturing single piece of carpet requires six months to a year’s labour. Around 70% of the workforce in Pakistan’s carpet industry are women who make carpets at home. Often these traditional workers lack proper training and the industry requires financing to complete the supply chain.


Only three decades ago, carpet was one of the leading manufacturing sectors and major sources of foreign exchange earnings in Pakistan, but the industry gradually lost its market share in the world on the allegation of child labour and lack of support of governments over the recent decades. On contrast, India’s carpet industry has outgrown Pakistan’s and captured the major share in the global carpet market, the export value of India’s carpet products soared to $8 billion in 2015-16 from mere $300 million a decade ago.


In its previous trade policy, the government had announced the formation of an export council, to provide help and support to the carpet manufacturers and exporters, but the files of the proposed forum have not been put into actions. Hundreds of carpet manufacturers have lost their businesses and workers lost their jobs in Pakistan since the global financial recession in 2008. Meanwhile, other issues, such as excluding handmade carpets in FTA concession list, insufficient promotion in trade fairs and exhibitions, and lack of early release of refunds, concessions and credit financing are also restraining the recovery of Pakistan’s carpet industry.


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