Carpet sales drop

KABUL – Sales of Afghanistan’s ancient carpet-weaving industry have dropped by half in the past year as war with Taliban militants heats up and neighbouring Pakistan clamps down on border traffic.

Prized by buyers as much for their artistry as utility, carpets are still a chief export of the impoverished nation, but their share has shrunk to six percent from 27 percent within less than a decade.

War, poverty and the transport constraints of a landlocked country have shredded sales for an industry that experts say dates back at least 2500 years. Legend holds that Alexander the Great sent a carpet from the area to his mother.

At a factory in Kabul, the capital, women weave on looms while men in dust-masks sort heaps of wool.

“We have invited a lot (of buyers),” said Diljam Manan Qassimy, a manager at the factory, Afghanistan Rugs and Carpet Center.

“But they say, ‘No, it is impossible to come, because of the blood and security problems.’ This is the sad tragedy.”

Violence has surged in Kabul, with attacks in the last year ranging from a truck bomb that killed at least 80 people and an ambulance bomb that killed 100, to a hotel raid that killed 20.

Carpets ranked fourth among Afghanistan’s legal exports at $38 million (£26.8 million) in the 2016-17 fiscal year, its Central Statistics Organization says. More than 85 percent went to Pakistan.

The export figure dropped by more than half from $89.5 million a year earlier. That in turn was a plunge from more peaceful times eight years earlier, when exports stood at $150 million.

Sales prospects are no brighter at home, as few Afghans can afford carpets that cost between $70 and $250 per square metre, outstripping the average monthly income.

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