Feb 14 - Afghanistan's traditional carpet industry is struggling in the face of rising production costs, red tape, corruption and competition from elsewhere. Paul Chapman reports.
Afghan carpets are one of the nation's best-known exports. But times are hard and getting worse for those who make a living in Afghanistan's carpet making industry. Production costs pushed up by NATO spending and development contracts are part of the problem. Add foreign competition, red tape and corruption into the pattern and things don't look pretty. Zahra earns her living as a weaver in Kabul. SOUNDBITE: Zahra, Afghan carpet weaver, saying (Dari): "The price of carpets is very low. It's hard work for us but we don't earn much and our economy is weak. We can't go to school because we have to work all the time here to make money and feed our family." Afghanistan exported nearly 390, 000 square metres of carpet and non-pile kilim rugs last year. That's down more than 980, 000 square metres on the year before. The Kabul Carpet Association says that's due to economic downturns in countries where Afghan carpets are sold. Pakistan, which accounts for about 90 per cent of Afghan carpet exports, is also being hit by political troubles which are adding to the pressure on prices. Afghanistan's carpet makers are largely agreed on one thing...they need government help. SOUNDBITE: Carpet worker Mohammad Taqi saying (Dari): "The big challenge we face is that the market price of carpets is decreasing and that's caused a drop in our production. We demand that the government helps carpet traders to find a better way to market and increase the price of carpets so that will bring some benefit to carpet weavers." Afghanistan's carpet industry employs six million people both directly and indirectly. The fall in production can only add to the nation's economic worries as foreign troops prepare to pull out in three years' time. Paul Chapman, Reuters