Af­ter sanc­tions, Iran’s car­pet in­dus­try seeks re­vival


Iran’s famed car­pet weavers are busy at work fol­low­ing the coun­try’s his­toric nu­clear deal with world pow­ers, an­tic­i­pat­ing a boost in ex­ports as sanc­tions are set to be lifted in the months ahead.

“The Per­sian hand-wo­ven car­pet is Iran’s am­bas­sador. I’m de­lighted that the am­bas­sador is in the process of re­sum­ing work in the U.S.,” ex­porter Jila Ras­sam Arabzadeh said this week. “The Per­sian car­pet is like the Ira­nian flag, known all over the world. Let our flag fly.”

The land­mark July 14 nu­clear ac­cord be­tween Iran and six world pow­ers — the U.S., the UK, France, Rus­sia, the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China and Ger­many — is meant to curb Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for lift­ing crip­pling in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions. As part of the deal, the U.S. will re­sume im­ports of Ira­nian car­pets, which were halted in 2010.

Per­sian car­pets were the Ira­nian non-oil com­mod­ity that suf­fered most as a re­sult of sanc­tions.

The U.S. mar­ket had made up one-fifth of Iran’s car­pet ex­ports. Hamid Kar­gar, pres­i­dent of Iran’s na­tional car­pet cen­ter, said pro­duc­ers in the Is­lamic re­pub­lic are al­ready mak­ing car­pets with Amer­i­cans in mind and are hope­ful that trade will re­sume next year.

“Peo­ple in the car­pet busi­ness have be­gun to pro­duce car­pets suit­ing the taste of the Amer­i­can mar­ket, re­ceiv­ing or­ders and ne­go­ti­at­ing with cus­tomers,” he said. “Since 2010, we lost one-fifth of our ex­ports be­cause we were de­prived of the U.S. mar­ket. Our ri­vals re­placed Iran. How­ever, we ex­pect that Amer­i­cans will welcome Per­sian car­pets again be­cause of its unique de­signs and col­ors.”

Iran ex­ported US$330 mil­lion in Per­sian car­pets last year. Ex­ports ac­count for two-thirds of Iran’s car­pet pro­duc­tion, which now stands at over 5 mil­lion square me­ters a year.

The Is­lamic re­pub­lic was once the world’s big­gest car­pet ex­porter but the in­dus­try has been ham­pered by the sanc­tions and com­pe­ti­tion from cheaper In­dian, Pak­istani and Chi­nese copies of tra­di­tional Ira­nian pat­terns.

Arabzadeh, the car­pet ex­porter, said she is pre­par­ing to re­spond to a va­ri­ety of Amer­i­can cus­tomers.

“Amer­i­cans and Cana­di­ans pre- fer light col­ors but the older gen­er­a­tions go for darker ones. We are re­assess­ing to meet the de­mands of our Amer­i­can cus­tomers,” she said.

Hand-wo­ven Per­sian car­pets can range in cost from sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars to multi-mil­lion dol­lar floor cov­er­ings fit for palaces.

In 2000, Iran shipped a gi­ant hand-wo­ven car­pet to the king of Oman worth US$5.2 mil­lion. In 2006, Iran pro­duced the world’s largest hand-wo­ven floor cov­er­ing, worth US$8.5 mil­lion, for the Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emi­rates.

Iran is also seek­ing to re­sume ex­ports of pis­ta­chios, another ma­jor Ira­nian non-oil com­mod­ity.

How­ever, in past decades, the U.S. it­self has be­come a ma­jor pis­ta­chio pro­ducer and Ira­nian im­ports face 300 per­cent du­ties. The tax was im­posed to pro­tect Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers, ac­cord­ing to Mohsen Jalalpour, head of Iran’s Cham­ber of Com­merce.

He’s con­fi­dent, though, that Ira­nian pis­ta­chios have a spe­cial ad­van­tage.

(Left) An Ira­nian woman weaves a car­pet at a work­shop of the Cul­tural and Artis­tic Car­pet Foun­da­tion of Ras­sam Arabzadeh in Tehran, Iran, Tues­day, Aug. 4. (Right) Ira­nian mer­chants dis­play a car­pet at Tehran’s old main bazaar, Mon­day, Aug. 3.


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