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Exports plummet, orders dry up: Kashmir artisans stare at bleak future as second COVID wave sweeps India

Srinagar: Fifty-five-year-old Mohammad Suleman of Baramulla had resumed carpet weaving after two years.

Hoping for a better future, he involved many artisans in his business. But his expectations came crashing down when orders dried up after fresh Covid-19 swept across the world.

“Many dealers had assured me that the carpet business will pick up. But nothing like that happened. Two carpets are almost ready in my workshop,” he said.

 Suleman is thinking to switch over to some other craft to eke out a living. “I can’t leave carpet weaving.  But for a time being, I will do some other business to manage expenses at home,” he said.

Handicrafts exports have failed to pick up as people in European and Gulf countries are not interested to buy exquisite items given the second Covid wave.

Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, a prominent carpet dealer, said the export chain has been disrupted due to the Covid crisis worldwide. “The second wave is now a bigger threat. Carpet exports are almost nil. Even some of the countries have stopped placing orders for Kashmir carpet in view of the Covid,” he said.

 Ahmad said the exports of handicrafts have been falling for the last two years. “Many European markets have closed due to the Covid. Now a government’s intervention is needed to save this trade, which defines Kashmir’s identity worldwide,” he said.

Umar Hamid, vice Chairman, Carpet Export Promotion Council of India, said the industry is facing a crisis. 

“Covid-19 was the last nail in the coffin for Kashmir carpet industry. The dealers are facing several issues. There are not many international flights available. The freight charges have also skyrocketed,” he said.

He said due to the Covid crisis, cheaper carpets are flooding the markets. “Cheaper carpets have invaded the market in foreign countries. Fewer exports are taking place now,” he added.

An official said the government is exploring other markets to promote Kashmir handicrafts. “Right now, the government is focusing on the promotion of handicrafts through different programmes and exhibitions. The export of handicrafts has resumed and it will pick up pace in coming months,” he said.