Nepali carpet on deathbed, govt cares two hoots

Kathmandu, September 21:

Carpet exporters feel the government is neglecting their sector although it is one of the leading foreign currency earners. In a statement today, Nepal Carpet Exporters’ Association (NCEA) expressed this opinion and also gave its reaction on the budget.

“The government is not giving us priority. If this goes on, we won’t survive in the long run in the international market,” said Deepak Bhattarai, NCEA acting president. He said NCEA had tried to rouse the government from its torpor but to no avail. “It won’t take long for the carpet industry to die,” he added.

Nepali carpet is losing its grip over the international market and those associated with this sector think it is high time the government came to the rescue.

Sectors like education, health, tourism and bureaucracy have got budget allotment but the carpet industry which engages 12 lakh people has been ignored. The 20 per cent income tax has made matters worse, said NCEA. It warned that if the government did not help, the industry would fold up and at least three lakh workers would lose their jobs.

Data from NCEA shows Nepal exported only 1.136 billion square metres of carpets in 2007-08. That was an erosion of 65.8 per cent over 15 years in the carpet export volume. Yet, the carpet industry still fetches Rs 600 crore in foreign currency against investment of Rs 1200 crore.

Voicing concern over the drop in volume of carpet export, Geeta Shrestha, senior section officer at the carpet division of Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC) said, “I agree we have limited sources and the carpet industry is on the downslide. Keeping in mind the promotion of Nepali carpets, TEPC will very soon work out different trade promotion programmes.”

“We will participate in trade fairs in the US and Germany which are our regular sites.

Proposals regarding this have been forwarded. I think they will be the best platforms for lobbying for Nepali carpets,” said Shrestha. According to her, the US trade fair will soon be conducted in January either at New York or Atlanta.

Shrestha said that TEPC would also conduct training in carpet weaving and that it has planned to produce carpets with brand new designs. TEPC is also trying to conduct interaction programmes with trade unions for the development and promotion of Nepali carpets, she added.

During 1993-94, Nepal exported 3.326 billion square metres as it was a new product for buyers and there was no international competition. The Nepali carpet was cheaper than other traditional carpets such as Persian rugs. It was regarded a cottage industry, was income tax free and also had GSP facility from importing countries According to data, the erosion of 65.8 per cent in 15 years is mainly due to the government imposing income tax on carpet export and growing competition with the cheaper Indian carpet, a phenomenon collectively called the Indo-Nepal Syndrome, non effective economic diplomacy and market promotion campaigns.

A sizeable section of rural people, especially women, are engaged in the carpet industry. NCEA said the government was aware of the sector’s logistics but was not taking initiatives for its promotion. It is left to the NCEA to organise various programs for boosting the export of Nepal carpets.