The centuries-old industry has been hit hard by repeated economic crises in recent years, as well as by economic sanctions imposed by the United States, formerly the biggest market for Persian carpets. Even in Iran, cheaper, machine-made rugs are starting to outsell handmade ones. The industry’s decline is just one more problem facing the Islamic republic’s president-elect, Hassan Rouhani, when he takes office in early August.
Iranian carpet experts are calling on the government to boost the image of the hand-woven rugs in countries other than the United States
“We expect the new government to assign enough of a budget for our promotional campaigns to better introduce Iran’s rugs internationally,” said Mojtaba Feyzollahi, marketing deputy of the Iran National Carpet Center.
Ali-Reza Ghaderi, the founder and director of the Tehran-based Persian Carpet Think Tank, agreed that officials should concentrate on promoting exports.
“The problem is not production, but marketing and selling,” Ghaderi said.
After energy products, handmade rugs are Iran’s most important export, accounting for $560 million last year, which amounts to about 20 percent of the global handmade rug market.
But not all Iran analysts think the government should support the ancient craft.
“I don’t think this is an industry that the country needs to protect, as it does not produce good jobs that young people should be seeking,” said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an economics professor at Virginia Tech who visits Iran regularly.
But the industry employs an estimated 2 million Iranians; an estimated 10 percent of the population benefits economically from some aspect of the rug business, according to the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade. That makes its preservation essential, at least for now.
In addition to merchants, the industry generates jobs for repairmen and the deliverymen who scurry around the bazaar with rusty hand carts brimming with inventory.
In Tehran and across Iran, however, the number of people in the industry is decreasing. according to industry experts.
“The rug bazaar is being eaten by the clothing bazaar, which borders us,” said Hossein Hosseiny, a 31-year-old third-generation rug merchant, navigating through crowds of people pawing through stacks of garments in the shops that are taking over much of the old bazaar.
Trading in Chinese- and Turkish-made clothes is more lucrative than selling Persian rugs, so clothing importers are willing to pay exorbitant rents — more than $2,000 per month — for stalls measuring less than 100 square feet in some highly trafficked areas of the bazaar.
July 18, 2013Read the full article...