Brightness of Kashmiri carpets fades in economic meltdown

February 22nd, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Feb 22 (IANS) The centuries-old carpet industry of Kashmir is facing a severe crisis in the wake of the global economic slowdown, endangering the livelihood of over 150,000 weavers.

Industry leaders are expecting a sharp fall in domestic sales as well as exports this fiscal as demand is falling.

“Last year, the total sales of Kashmiri carpets (including exports) were Rs.500-600 crore (Rs.5-6 billion). This year, it is feared the sales would hardly touch around Rs.200 crore (Rs.2 billion),” Ahsan Mirza, a local carpet exporter, told IANS.

“This is a huge slowdown that threatens the very existence of the carpet industry in Kashmir,” he said.

Exquisitely designed and handmade, Kashmiri carpets have been the proud possession of many a connoisseur of art and luxury around the world. There are more than 30,000 carpet weaving looms in the valley from which over 150,000 local weavers earn their livelihood.

“There are 300 to 400 carpet showrooms in the country where the local carpets are displayed and sold. The global economic crisis and the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks have dealt a serious blow to our industry,” Mirza said.

Apart from the weavers, nearly 25,000 people are also depending on the industry to find a source of income.

“These people are associated with the industry as dyers, washermen and other processing people, who are responsible for bringing the finished product to the market from its weaving stage,” Mirza said.

Saying the slowdown in the market would continue for at least two years, Mirza urged the government to help the industry.

“This is the most appropriate time for the government to look into the matter and work out some kind of package to safeguard not only the interests of the weavers but also those of the exporters and local retailers in the country,” he said.

Weavers also expressed concern over the worsening economic scenario.

“If the industry fails, I would have to starve since I have no other means of sustenance,” said Abdul Rehman, a 46-year-old weaver from Kanihama village of central Kashmir.

Zubair Ahmad, director of the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), said the institute was providing “all technical support” to the industry to weather the crisis.

“While we are there to go all out to provide the technical support to the industry, I would suggest the government should seriously address the problem. The value-added tax (VAT) has already been abolished, now the government should provide soft loans to the weavers, manufacturers and exporters,” Ahmad told IANS.

“The state-owned Handicrafts Development Corporation has a network of sale outlets throughout the country. The corporation must also engage itself in sustaining the industry so that it comes out of the present crisis,” he added.

(F. Ahmed can be contacted at f.ahmed@ians.in)

– Indo-Asian News Service

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