For centuries people all over the world have decorated their homes with stylish Afghan rugs. But sales and production are falling, putting a business that employs one fifth of the country's population in peril.
Carpets are Afghanistan's best-known export, Reuters reported. However, cheap competition in China has hurt the industry. The Afghan war that began in 2001 made matters worse.
“After the invasion of the Americans, this industry has been in a continuous decline,” a long-time carpet-maker told the Christian Science Monitor.
Experienced carpet-makers earn about $200 to $250 a month, but most in the industry earn much less, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
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Reuters reported that carpet production in Afghanistan has dropped 70 percent in the past few years, despite the fact that the industry directly or indirectly employs six million people. While Afghanistan's economy grows about 9 percent each year, Reuters noted, one third of the nation still lives under the poverty line.
United States officials have recognized the danger that the war has posed to the carpet business. In 2010, the Pentagon announced its $1 million contract to the Afghan rug industry, the Washington Post reported. And Afghan rug-makers have previously tried to turn the war to their advantage by making so-called war-carpets, which were decorated with designs of weapons, MSNBC reported.
Still, exports of carpet material dropped from 1,370,000 square meters in 2010 to 388,000 in 2011, Reuters reported.
"In the past people in provinces could earn good money. But now there are machine-made carpets which people have mostly turned to," another carpet-maker told Reuters.