By Franklin Alli
For the only survivingÂ three local carpets and rugs manufacturers not to go the way of Michelin and Dunlop, thereâ€™s need to protect the industry from collapse, reports Franklin Alli
Several local manufacturers of goods and raw materials in the country have collapsed over the past three decades due to the influx of cheap foreign products.Â The cheap imports appear to have plunged the local industry into even more serious crisis with a drop in production and a massive loss of jobs.
It, therefore, came as a relief to the carpet industry when the Federal Government in 2002 announced the ban on the importation of carpets and rugs of all types falling under: H.S. 5701.1000, H.S.5705.000 into the Nigerian market.
A measure that is complimentary to the huge investments and expansion by the only surviving three carpet and rugs manufacturers in the country Lucky Fibres Plc, Jay Kay Carpets and International Carpets .
This declaration by the Federal Government to ban the importation of carpets and rugs and other goods received a lot commendation from many industrialists and well meaning Nigerians. Most of the people argue that the ban will boost the conditions of our local industries and the economy. They maintained that this will not only promote the local carpet industries but may go a long way to sustain them considering the harsh business environment in which local industries operate and the already know penchant of Nigerians who patronize foreign goods to the detriment of homemade ones.
Surprisingly, during a media chat recently, the National President of Carpet Dealers Association and Managing Director of Atunrase Carpets, Dr. Lateef Shofowora, allegedly called on the Federal Government for the lifting of the ban on importation of carpets and rugs.
Vanguard gathered that Dr. Lateef Shofowora, allegedly accused the carpets manufacturers of high-handedness and constituting themselves into a monopoly by recycling old colours and designs without making efforts to bring out new ones. Be that as it may, the call by Shofowora has continued to receive lots of condemnation from many industrialists and well meaning Nigerians. Most of the people argue that importation will worsen the conditions of our local industries and lead to loss of jobs and unemployment.
Industry watchers, who have been keenly following the development, say the drum beats for the lifting of the ban on carpets if heeded by government, may reverse the gains recorded in the sector for the past five years.
â€œSince the protection of domestic industry remain a core responsibility of governments in all economies, particularly sensitive sectors, it is good to protect and promote the development of local carpets and rugs industries, because they provide employment, skill acquisition and poverty alleviation for thousands of Nigeria. â€ analyst said.
Another far reaching implication if protectionism is removed, they cited is that our economy will become a dumping ground for all sorts of carpets and rugs products
â€œA critical analysis of this the likely negative effect of importing carpet and rugs into the country according to many will be retrenchment and outright closure of local carpet industries thereby swelling the already suffocating unemployment marketâ€, an analyst believes.
Mrinmoy Dutta, Head, Sales & Marketing, Jay Kay Carpets believes that government should take measures to support the local industry as they save the country of precious foreign exchange and also provide employment to thousands of Nigerians. Dutta stated that the ban is a response to the huge investments by the manufacturers over the years.
Vanguard further learnt that two of the carpets and rugs manufacturers, Lucky Fibres Plc and Jay Kay have together invested over N4 Billion naira to acquire latest machinery and technology to boost their operations. According to Dutta, Jay Kay Group have made huge investment in latest technology and set up the first factory in West Africa to produce â€œwovenâ€ Rugs & Carpets. Similarly, Lucky Fibres Plc recently built and commissioned a N1.6 billion state-of-the-art printed carpet factory in Ikorodu, Lagos State.
The factory is said to be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who commissioned the factory, it would be recalled, commended the company for its positive contribution towards the development of the Nigerian economy, particularly Lagos State.
Fashola said the government would continue to engage in rewarding partnership with private sector operatives like Lucky Fibres to drive entrepreneurship and to fight poverty. He extolled the dexterity of the Aswani, owners of the company, which has propelled the company and placed it among the top 50 most profitable carpet manufacturing companies in the world. â€œIf a company that does not have regular power supply can be among the top 50 most profitable carpet companies in the world, what will happen if it now has uninterrupted power supply? It means it can be among the top 10,â€ he added.
General Manager, Mr. Rohit Lonkar, said the company has indeed come of age since it was incorporated in 1986. It, however, started manufacturing activities in 1990 as a producer of raw materials for carpets manufacturing in Nigeria that is yarn, and gradually evolved as a dominant player in the carpet industry in Nigeria. Aswani said â€œthe company is presently engaged in manufacturing of bulk continuous filament yarn (Pp yarn) and tufted carpet,â€ which has become the toast of consumers.
He noted that the companyâ€™s biggest strength lies in its state-of-the-art technology, which earned her the first textile manufacturer in Nigeria to get ISO 9001:1994 accreditation from the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). The commissioning of the new N1.6 billion facility marked a turning point in carpet manufacturing in the country.
Prior to this, the company was utilising the tufting technology to churn out carpets to meet domestic requirements. The tufting technology has its limitations in terms of number of colours and designs, the designs being offered consumers were only geometric designs.Â With this development the company now produces world class printed carpets and rugs called Dâ€™Ziner Collection.Â Â The company has also begun exporting its brands of Nobel brand of carpets and rugs to the United States of America (USA). â€œWe want to inform our Nigerian consumers that they no longer have to wait for any better carpets produced in the developed countries as we are now supplying to these developed countries. Nobel has the capability to cater for all the carpeting needs irrespective of tastes and budgets,â€ said Lonkar.
He further explained that with this development the company now aspires to become a truly international brand.Â He disclosed that the company has employed directly a workforce comprising of 350 junior staffs and 40 senior staff with over 10,000 indirect employments. The company employs mostly high technically skilled individuals to work in its yarn and carpet plants. Due to the specialist nature of the companyâ€™s operations, it has had to employ the services of foreign expatriates to manage its various departments.
The question now is why should the Federal Government be interested in importing carpets and rugs into the country instead of encouraging local industries to produce carpets?
Any serious government with genuine intentions for investments, job creation and improved earnings could only but encourage and sustain these interesting developments.Â These are far better alternatives than for the Federal Government to spend millions of Dollars to carpet which could be manufactured in large commercial quantity by local manufacturers in the country. Such monies could be used in buying modern plants and machinery for the establishment of more indigenous companies to ensure high quality production of goods that could be exported to earn revenue for government.