EghtesadOnline: Tabriz, the capital city of East Azarbaijan Province, is hosting an international hand-woven carpet exhibition that was inaugurated by President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday and will conclude on Aug. 4.
Carpet producers from across the country, mainly from the provinces of Isfahan, Gilan, Qom, Tehran, East and West Azarbaijan, in addition to those from several foreign countries, are showcasing their products in 46 booths spread across 10,000 square meters at the four-day event, IRNA reported.
A remarkable hand-woven carpet worth $100 million, measuring 600 square meters and made by carpet weavers in Tabriz was unveiled on the first day of the expo, Tasnim News Agency reported.
As many as 70 dyes have been used in making the carpet, which took six years to complete, Financial Tribune reported.
The northwestern city of Tabriz is considered the world’s capital of hand-woven carpets. Some 200,000 people work in the province’s carpet industry.
Latest available data show Iran exported more than $176 million worth of hand-woven carpets during the first seven months of the last Iranian year (March 21-Oct. 22, 2018). The figure marked a 20% decline compared with the similar period of the year before.
Germany, Lebanon, the UK and China were the biggest customers of Iran. Italy, Switzerland, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are other traditional buyers of Iranian carpets.
Persian hand-woven carpets are exported to about 80 countries.
In the fiscal 2017-18, handmade carpet exports hit $428 million. However, with the reimposition of US sanctions, exports declined but the center is pursuing ways to bypass sanctions and maintain a foothold in global markets.
Iran and six world powers, namely the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, signed an agreement dubbed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015, under which Tehran agreed to limit the scope of its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. It was implemented a year later and led to the removal of years of international sanctions against Iran.
However, US President Donald Trump announced in May last year that the US was unilaterally walking out of the nuclear deal. He then unleashed two waves of sanctions, one in August and another in November, described by Washington as "toughest ever" aimed at choking Iran's trade with other countries.
The United States, which was previously the biggest buyer of Persian handmade carpet, stopped importing. This is while the country used to import $80-100 million worth of carpets annually prior to sanctions.
Fereshteh Dastpak, the head of Iran National Carpet Center, recently said plans are underway to establish a barter system to trade Persian hand-woven carpets for other commodities.
She noted that major buyers of Persian handmade carpets in China have expressed their readiness to use such a mechanism to import Iranian carpets in exchange for subway wagons.
Sweden and Russia have also offered do trade Iranian carpets for a range of other commodities, Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture's news portal reported.
"More than 95% of raw materials to produce hand-woven carpets in Iran are produced domestically," she said.
According to the official, one of the biggest problems facing exporters these days is limitations imposed by the sanctions on currency repatriation.
As per the directive devised in the wake of the currency crisis in Iran, the government has obliged all exporters to repatriate their foreign currency yields into the economic cycle of the country.
The move is aimed at boosting strained currency reserves, at least in the short run, under increasingly harsh conditions. But it has understandably received negative feedback from private sector players.
Dastpak noted that about 80% of hand-woven carpets produced in Iran are exported.
“The product has always been among the top three non-oil exports of Iran even through the worst years experienced by the country's economy. Handmade carpets are deemed Iran’s second flag and a symbol of Iranian identity and culture,” she said.