Hand-woven carpets are potentially significant foreign currency earners for Turkey. Realizing this potential requires the craft of carpet weaving to be kept alive, further developed, and popularized. The art of Turkish carpet weaving has deep historical roots going back 14, 15 even 16 centuries, and they enjoy international appreciation and fame. In order to keep the craft alive in the current century, it is our duty to pass this national handicraft and culture on to future generations in an enriched and unadulterated fashion. It also requires us to not ignore the challenges facing carpet weaving in Anatolia, and that we develop solutions by addressing the challenges in a systematic way. Industrialization and the underdevelopment of regions where carpets are still handwoven have imposed significant limitations on the craft of carpet weaving in Anatolia. Unfortunately, neither legal nor institutional efforts have been made to free the sector from these structural limitations, nor has the tool of incentives been employed. Before the background of international competition, with respect to certain countries, our handmade carpets and kilims sector suffers from infrastructural and organizational deficiencies. This has led to a decline in foreign trade activities and to associated commercial, socio-economic but also cultural losses. Due to our failure to fully benefit from the cultural richness our country offers in this area, we are now faced with a decline in the tradition of manual carpet weaving, one of the most important cornerstones of the Anatolian culture.
The picture we are presented with today is a decrease in value creation in the handmade carpets and kilims sector This situation affects all stakeholders of the sector but female labor in rural areas in particular and has negative consequences both culturally and economically. Handmade woven products are high-value goods, the negative consequences of the current situation, therefore, affect large parts of the population. The handmade carpets and kilims sector is a branch that requires urgent attention. With respect to variety in carpets and kilims, our country is the richest in the world, which makes it imperative that we use our potential and resources wisely. The state is trying to maintain this rich heritage in the context of non-essential activities of local governments and sometimes public administrations but usually with social goals in mind, and without tying the activities into a regulatory and supportive institutional framework of responsibilities. Dedicated commission reports clearly define the situation stating that private-sector efforts based on local production are without focus and constantly in decline, as they are subject to continuously changing market effects and caught between adherence to cultural values on the one hand and the necessity to be commercially viable on the other.
Our country has no legal regulations which directly address the problems of the handmade carpets and kilims sector or its development, nor has it implemented any policy to this effect. The activities of the Culture and Tourism Ministry are not comprehensively enough to cover the entire sector. Lack of knowledge in the sector regarding its workings, its fundamental principles, and its organizational problems constitute the biggest obstacle to the adoption of a rational outlook. The handmade carpets and kilims sector, which presents itself as a culturally local business branch, requires support in terms of reliable research on productivity, quality, product variety and standards, marketing techniques, promotion activities, access to distribution channels, qualified labor, regional potentials, choice of suitable raw materials, the cultural identity of products, etc.
Currently, there is no institutionalized organization in our country dedicated to these issues and capable of carrying out these activities. To solve the problem we need a long-term vision that ensures the continuity of the sector. Such a vision needs to be formulated without further delay and with all stakeholders involved. In this context, policies to revive the sector need to be formulated and implemented and their effects monitored. In light of the cultural, economic, and social benefits, there are enough reasons to justify the use of public resources and time to achieve this goal. If we do not act, the contraction we witness today and whose extent we cannot even measure yet will result in the loss, in our of a cultural value we have maintained and cultivated over hundreds of years.
AREAS OF STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS
1. In the context of their activities, quite a few public institutions and organizations in Turkey want to benefit (usually for social purposes) from the many opportunities offered by the craft of carpet weaving. These well-meaning activities, which are not connected by any common legal framework, do not only fail to make any contribution to the culture of carpet weaving, they even cause its further degeneration because they lack reliable data right from the beginning. The question of whether or not the public resources invested in these efforts are spent efficiently and productively is another matter.
2. With respect to the manufacture of handmade carpets, in our country, we cannot speak of an organized production structure guided by the work of research institutions. With the exception of a few universities (Marmara and Atatürk University), no work of any impact with respect to the generation of permanent projects has been carried out. The same is true for institutional organizations: no institute providing sector related data and generating projects, monitoring global developments, and carrying out its own research based on those developments exists. This lack of dedicated organizations and the insufficiency of vocational training institutions have a negative impact on our competitiveness.
3. In our country, carpet weaving is closely related to the agricultural and the service (tourism) sector. The agricultural sector provides the carpet weaving sector with raw materials and with labor, while the tourism sector provides the main market for its products and is the focus of its promotional activities. The position and trend of the tourism sector in the general economic picture of the country is the fundamental parameter directly affecting the balance of demand and supply in the handmade carpets market. Short-term contractions affecting tourism, which emerge in times of economic, social, or political crises, cause losses in labor, production, and capital in the carpet market because they are based on long-term considerations. If periods of the crisis continue for longer, the sector suffers permanent contraction.
4. If no correct data on capacity, labor, products, costs, and quality at a local, regional, and national level can be obtained, this causes investment losses. Due to the lack of a database on parameters relevant for the sector, it cannot benefit from measures such as improvement, support, and incentive systems, nor from tax exemptions to the extent it deserves.
5. Lately, we have been observing a lack of conscious consumers for handmade carpets offered on the domestic market. This lack of interest, knowledge, and consciousness regarding the culture of handmade carpets has a negative impact on the sector. This changing consumer profile reduces the domestic demand pressure on companies which thereby reacts by paying less attention to quality and cultural particularities. As a result, the contribution of the domestic market as a driving force which serves to prepare the companies for their international competition remains insufficient.
6. In our country there are no organizations that provide financial support in times of crisis, that may provide guidance in administrative matters, that provide training and technical support or incentives or create a conducive business atmosphere so that individuals, family companies ad cooperatives, that ar engaged in this business at the pool level, can succEssfully continue their activities in a sustainable fashion. The refers in particular to marketing, which are the drivers of this business and which usually address the tourism market
7 Individuals interested in handmade carpet production face problems with raw materials, designs, technical equipment, financing, and marketing This applies to all locations with a sufficiently qualified labor force but 9 rural areas in particular. Their inability to overcome these problems negatively affects their ability to maintain the activities. This situation pushes enterprises with the experience of manufacturing carpets in an organized fashion and many people with carpet-making skills and experience outside the sector. Unfortunately, the number of weavers, who have been trained n courses organized with the aid of Community Education" organizations, cannot be fully employed as part of the active weaver potential.
TO SUM UP THE MATTER:
As is the case with any other production process, carpet weaving is an economic activity that yields a commercial product. And like any other economic activity, it requires its own specific operational processes. To be sustainable, handmade carpet weaving as a business activity requires functions such as research and development, training, production, organization, marketing, etc. For investments planned in this context to be successful and for our country to benefit from the art of carpet weaving to the extent it deserves, the afore-mentioned basic operational functions of a business enterprise must be addressed in a holistic approach. For projects to be sustainable in the long term, it is important to provide weavers social security, to improve their working conditions, and to raise their income to an acceptable level. That requires a design-indexed carpet/kilim production of high quality and with high added value. The proposed quality approach seems reasonable since it is not possible for us to compete with low labor cost countries. It is also of importance to raise awareness in the general public and to elevate the Anatolian carpet culture with its deep historic roots to the level it deserves. It is possible for the sector to develop and gain a competitive advantage in the culture markets if it is put on a solid foundation in the domestic market.