FAISALABAD: Chiniot is one of the ancient cities in the subcontinent. Ragveda, the holy book of Hinduism, mentions the city by the name of Egen. Another thing which makes the city famous is its history of outstanding and remarkable work of furniture.
Furniture work started in the city around 250 years ago and the art of wood carving was also introduced in the same period. People from abroad used to visit the city just to purchase furniture. British officers sent Chiniot furniture to other countries as a gesture of friendship. In such a way, Chiniot became famous throughout the world for its exceptional work in furniture. Chiniot became a hub for sale of furniture to different parts of the country and exports across the world. The city presents a beautiful blend of modern and classical furniture designs.
Chiniot is also famous for embossing and wooden inlay. Brass is used to decorate and design the furniture. Furniture is painted with different layouts. Many furniture designers use geometrical patterns to produce new and attractive designs. In this technique, different designs are prepared by joining small pieces of wood pieces together. These designs are mostly used to decorate buildings.
It is, however, a matter of serious concern that no serious efforts have been made by any of the successive governments to support this one of the most potential sectors which can bring a big boost to the national economy by fetching of huge foreign exchange and also producing thousands of job opportunities.
Currently, more than 5,000 families are engaged with furniture industry in this city which is mostly providing the handmade furniture in Pakistan.
The industry seems to have hit a stalemate with lack of innovation and quality of products. New products are only based on designs copied from different brochures and catalogues while computer automated designing is not being used by the manufactures. Shisham wood is the only raw material which had been under tremendous attack from a disease “die back” as called by the locals, for the last three decades while its overall growth is also declining countrywide. Consequently, the quantity of Shisham wood and its production have decreased.
Wood drying or seasoning is an important step before wood is sent for carving. But there was not a single plant for wood seasoning in Chiniot. Following the persistent demand of the local furniture sector, the provincial government in collaboration with Punjab Small Industry Cooperation has set up a wooden furniture common faculty service centre and showroom in 2004 at Chiniot-Faisalabad Road over an area of six Kanals. However, the cost for wood seasoning is so high that the furniture makers are no longer interested to use the facility.
A shopkeeper Rizwan Waheed told The Express Tribune that he knew that the dry wood would intensify the quality of furniture. But the cost is Rs100 per square foot for seasoning the wood which would ultimately increase the price of furniture.
“The wood seasoning plant is situated 2.5 kilometres away from the market which increases the transportation cost. If we avail the facility of seasoning, the price of furniture will go considerably up. The furniture which is being prepared at Rs15,000, its cost will surge to Rs25,000,” he added.
Chaudhry Abdul Hameed, a leading furniture manufacture, said 70% of the furniture was being prepared with wet wood which cannot be exported. He said wood seasoning plant was installed far from the city whereas the plant’s electricity cost was aggravating the problems.
Pakistan Furniture Council President Mian Muhammad Kashif Ashfaq said local furniture industry has made great strides over the past recent years. “Furniture industry holds a significant share in the economy of Pakistan. A well-established furniture industry will bring foreign exchange and skilled workforce. Currently we the volume of furniture of exports is $60 million and we aim to boost the volume of exports by $6 billion,” he added.
Though government claims patronising the export-oriented sector and trade-friendly policies, the fact remains that the potential export-oriented furniture sector is not on the priority list of the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2017.