ISLAMABAD - The furniture industry must vigorously be transformed from cottage or small scale industry to innovative industry through training, upgrading supplies and imports, establishing a wood work institute and testing laboratories of international standards.

It was stated by Mian Kashif Ashfaq Chief Executive Officer Pakistan Furniture Council here on Sunday while talking to a delegation of hardware traders led by Ibrahim Kaleem. He said hectic efforts must be made by promoting furniture exports by more regular participation in international shows. All this can happen if there is government will and a vision amongst furniture traders. So far, this remains to be seen he added. He said total world trade in furniture is estimated to be in the tune of $23.2 billion, of which the share of wooden furniture is 77 percent, followed by metal furniture at 17 percent and plastic furniture at 6 percent.

He said Italy is the world’s biggest exporter of furniture followed by Germany and Canada. United States is the biggest importer of wooden furniture followed by Germany and France. Mian Kashif said Pakistan’s share in the international wooden furniture market is insignificant, despite the fact that the country has a history of craftsmanship and innovation in the field of wooden furniture. The wooden furniture industry represents 95 percent of the total market in the country.

The leading furniture making areas of Pakistan are Chiniot, Gujrat, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. In terms of exports, Karachi comes first, followed by Lahore and Peshawar. He said exporters are suffering manifold problems while local manufacturers are facing challenges due to heavy imports of furniture. Chinese furniture has also hit the local industry by 70 percent and the sales of locally manufactured household furniture have gone down significantly.

He said pressure on the domestic industry has immensely increased as other countries like Thailand and Korea have started exporting extensively to Pakistan. He said in Pakistan, the wooden furniture industry can be categorized into small scale and cottage. These units unfortunately use obsolete machinery, inadequate tools and manual labor for manufacturing wooden furniture. This means high costs and poor output. Mian Kashif said Chiniot is well known throughout the world for its beautiful wood carvings and brass inlays.

Its furniture is better in quality than that of other areas of the country. More than 80 percent of the furniture demand in the country is met by the Chinioti furniture and partly by the Chenone. This industry, combined with the handicraft industry, is employing about 500,000 people.

He said the wooden furniture industry in Gujrat is also flourishing and contributing a large amount of foreign exchange earnings to Pakistan. The demand for Pakistani furniture has been rising constantly. It has bright prospects to export more than $1 billion worth of furniture annually in the international furniture market he remarked.