Doubled prices and missing local product: Syrian furniture has become a far-fetched dream
Lama, who is 31 years old and who is a resident of Aleppo, decided to move with her husband and children from her temporary to her permanent home. However, she was forced to reconsider her idea after being shocked by the prices of household appliances and furniture. She was left with two options: either buying used furniture, which might be stolen, or affording to buy new furniture, while others are turning to Turkish or Chinese furniture, which is much cheaper than the Syrian products.
A marriage or a relocation plan in Syria have become among the most difficult and most costly steps for citizens who are mainly living under low living standards, poor purchasing power, and rising prices.
The prices of furniture have become ten times as much as they used to be due to several factors, foremost of which is the economic siege imposed on Syria, the loss of the Syrian currency’s value in the face of the world currencies in addition to the loss of furniture factories and local and export markets.
The local furniture market has witnessed many changes since 2007 to this day, affecting the manufacturing, the sales, purchases and export prices.
Furniture prices doubled from 8 to 10 times
Since 2010 until now, the prices of furniture have increased to ten times. The price of the bedroom is between one million and one and a half million Syrian liras (one USD equals about 500 Syrian liras) for medium and good quality, while the price of children’s bedroom reaches up to 900 thousand Syrian liras starting from 700 thousand Syrian liras, according to Enab Baladi’s monitoring.
The price of the (wrapped) living room is about 700 thousand Syrian liras for goods of medium quality and manufacturing, while the price of the (engraved) living room is more than one million and 400 thousand Syrian liras, and the price of a tea table reaches an average of 100 thousand Syrian liras.
Returning to the prices in 2010, Samir Tateen, owner of a furniture shop in Saqba in Eastern Ghouta, has divided the home furniture into three social categories: the poor, the middle class and the luxury class categories.
According Tateen, the prices of furniture vary, depending on the type of wood, the manufacturing and its quality.
The price of the bedroom made of the type “MDF” of wood used to range from 35 to 55 thousand Syrian liras, according to quality, which Tateen pointed out that it is generally low. The price of the living room ranges between 15 and 35 thousand Syrian liras. Tateen pointed out that these prices do not include the areas of Saqba and Hamouriyah in Ghouta, where there has been a high manufacturing price compared to the regions of Darayya, Homs, and Aleppo.
The price of a medium-quality bedroom, made of good wood (Beech and Plywood), ranged from 75 thousand Syrian liras to 125 thousand Syrian liras, while the price of the living room from medium to excellent quality ranged from 40 to 200 thousand Syrian liras.
Tateen said that the prices of the bedrooms of the rich and luxury classes ranged from 150 thousand Syrian liras to half a million Syrian liras. However, these goods have less local demand.
Setbacks experienced by the local industry
The furniture industry in Syria has gone through several stages, causing setbacks both at the industry level and at the marketing and selling level.
The first setback is due to the entry of Turkish and Chinese goods to the Syrian market. These foreign goods are cheaper than the locally made one and with newer designs, as well as being practical in small apartments, unlike the locally made ones that require wider spaces inside the house.
The entry of those furnishings has attracted customers and consumers, which caused a decrease in the sales of local furnishings, although they have a better quality.
After importing furniture between 2005 and 2007, the owners of furniture showrooms and furniture merchants in the city of Saqba, Eastern Ghouta, held the first furniture fair in Syria in 2008, with the presence of officials from the governorates of Damascus and its countryside and the Damascus Chamber of Industry.
The fair came to boost the local market and restore the Syrian consumer, who prefers export furniture, according to Tateen.
The second setback to the local furniture market is the war. Thus, most of the industrial areas, where the oriental, western, and arabesque furniture are manufactured, were damaged, especially the ones in Eastern Ghouta, which is one of the largest markets for furniture; in addition to Darayya in Western Ghouta and al-Sheikh Najjar industrial area in Aleppo. Such a situation resulted in shutting down furniture factories and workshops, labor shortage, and the immigration of workers from Syria. On the other hand, investors and traders have fled Syria due to war, in addition to economic sanctions that dismantled trade relations with neighboring countries, and caused the closure of exports markets.
Distribution of furniture industry in Syria
The countryside of Damascus and the countryside of Aleppo are the most prominent Syrian provinces that manufacture furniture, while the rest of the Syrian provinces cover only local needs.
Furniture industries in the countryside of Damascus are located in the town of Hamouriya for manufacturing, Saqba for manufacturing and sales, Arbin for manufacturing, Darayya for manufacturing and sales, in addition to Jobar, which manufactures expensive oriental furniture and exports the majority of its production.
The city of Damascus has one furniture market in al-Abed Street, in addition to showrooms and retail stores.
In Aleppo, al-Sheikh Najjar industrial area is considered as the most important area for the furniture industry in Syria, while the furniture manufacturers are spread in other areas, which are less concentrated than al-Sheikh Najjar industrial zone in the neighbourhoods of al-Salihin, al-Mash’ad and al-Ferdaws.
Syrian labour force migration crisis
As in the rest of the industries, the furniture industry witnessed labor migration of registered craftsmen to the neighboring countries, especially to Turkey, which is one of the most important furniture manufacturers in the region.
The number of craftsmen who make all types of furniture and belong to the association in the countryside of Damascus was about 2375, in 2010; except for non-registered workers who significantly out-number registered workers. Quoting the Secretary of the Association of Crafts and Commerce, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that the number of craftsmen in Damascus furniture industry is about 1,300.
According to figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2008, furniture imports of the public and private sectors amounted to 46987 tons worth about three billion Syrian pounds, while furniture exports amounted to 58428 tons worth 765 billion Syrian pounds.
During the years of the war, Syria was emptied from skilled labor force as a result of military actions, in addition to other reasons, including the escape of youth from compulsory military service or from security arrests, in addition to deteriorating living conditions and high prices, which have led to the migration of workers in search for better economic conditions in the markets of neighboring countries.
Official statistics have not actually covered the number of craftsmen living outside the country, whether the ones working in the furniture market or the total number of workers in general.
In a statement to Sputnik, Head of the Workers’ Union in Syria, Jamal al-Qadri, said in April: “The companies and institutions are severely understaffed,” explaining that the number of the Union members was 1.2 million, while it is currently 950.000.
Al-Thawra newspaper quoted the Head of the economic office of the General Union of Workers, Omar Houria, in September, 2016, who said that the number of workers who have immigrated is more than 1 million, mostly specialists, technicians, professionals, and employers.