The Challenges Faced By Iran Carpet Exporters To Regain Their US Market Share

In Tehran, thousands of visitors arrived for the Persian carpet exhibition. Mohammad knows that he cannot afford to buy the exquisite carpets on display but he simply wanted to touch the quality, hand-woven craftsmanship.

Mohammad knows his carpets because he has spent 2 decades exporting Iran’s carpets to the United States. With the US sanctions imposed on Iran in 2010 that included Persian carpets, pistachio nuts and caviar, Mohammad found himself out of business. The US was the major market for Persian rugs and the sanctions caused the total carpet exports to fall by 30%. The embargo prohibited Americans to buy, sell or import Persian rugs even if the purchase was done outside of Iran.

Now, that the sanctions were lifted after the historic nuclear deal with the western powers the carpet industry is enjoying a boom in carpet exports to America. Carpet exports have gone up by 39% in the last 4 months since July 21 with Americans as the major buyers of the Persian rugs. In the first 4 months of the financial year of 2015, rug exports were literally zero but for the same period in 2016, export sales have reached $27 million.

At the Persian carpet exhibition, 700 stands displayed a wide range of carpets that have been painstakingly hand-woven by 1 million weavers from the different parts of Tehran but Hamidreza Zollanvari the CEO of a carpet company says that there is still huge room for growth in the US.

According to Zollanvari, western banks are still reluctant to do business with Iran and traders have to face ways to transfer money between Iran and the US. Bankers are afraid that if they do business with Iran they might inadvertently aid money laundering which is being used to finance terrorism and financial crimes. This is one of the challenges faced by carpet exporters in Iran before they can take back their US market share.

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