HERAT, Afghanistan – At a carpet factory in Herat in western Afghanistan, workers on Wednesday went about checking spools and lines of threads as they carried out quality checks on finished products, all against the backdrop of colorful rugs stacked together.
The factory, set up in 2017, employs over a hundred people, including engineers, laborers, transporters and warehouse employees, and produces 20 carpets a day, according to an epa-efe journalist.
The carpets, known as “Farash” in the local Dari language, are coveted all over the world for their aesthetics as well as utility, although there has been a sharp decline in demand since the beginning of the war in 2003.
A 2017 study on the issues and challenges of the Afghan carpet industry pointed out that, like other economic fields, the carpet weaving sector was adversely affected by the long-running conflict and political instability.
It had identified “competition from other Asian carpet producers and exporters, lack of branding and market linkage, lack of access to finance, low quality raw materials, inadequate cut and wash facilities, lack of market research and limited training, endemic corruption,” as some of its most immediate challenges.
The ancient carpet industry, however, still forms the backbone of the impoverished country’s exports, although their demand fell from 27 percent to a meager six percent in less than a decade.
The country had exported carpets worth $38 million – from $89.5 million a year earlier – in 2016-17.
“The Afghan carpets export rose rapidly from $4 million in 2001/02 to $216 million in 2005/06. After six years the export trend considerably slumped to $44 million, which also abruptly affected domestic carpets production,” the study had said.
More than 85 percent of the landlocked country’s carpets are exported to neighboring Pakistan, a country it also relies on for access to sea ports.
However, Pakistan has recently clamped down on border traffic to stop cross-border militant attacks, placing yet another strain on the carpet manufacturing sector.