Egyptian furniture threatens local industry in Idlib

Egyptian furniture inside a workshop in Idlib – January 16, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)

Egyptian furniture inside a workshop in Idlib – January 16, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)


Idlib – Anas al-Khouli

Craftsman Abdullah Darwish sips tea while contemplating the street in front of his workshop in the industrial area of Idlib, his face bearing expressions of sadness and concern. He has shut down his workshop after having to let go of his workers due to the lack of business.

The craftsman, who inherited the wood furniture craft from his father, said that the demand for Syrian furniture has declined because of the spread of imported furniture, which has affected the carving trade negatively and threatened it with extinction, forcing artisans to look for other sources of livelihood.

The furniture markets in Idlib are active in importing furniture and pieces of Egyptian furniture with good quality and cheap prices, compared to the locally manufactured and imported Turkish ones, which threatens the craft in northern Syria to come to a complete stop, leaving those involved with it unemployed.

Local cost is doubled

Darwish explained to Enab Baladi that Turkish furniture, despite causing a decline in demand for local furniture, is made of melamine and commercial woods, thus not satisfying those who desire bedrooms and furniture made from ornate beech wood. Therefore, the craftsmen did not feel that it completely threatened the craft, but rather significantly weakened the demand.

On the other hand, the imported Egyptian furniture is made of beech wood, carved with beautiful and stunning patterns, of high quality and very cheap prices – impossible for the local markets to compete with in any case, according to the craftsman, who considered that these imported furnishings have completely killed the local profession.

The craftsman pointed out that one of the Egyptian bedroom sets he personally inspected was priced at 1100 US dollars, but locally, to manufacture it would require a whole beech wood board costing 800 US dollars, plus work on engravings and carving on the wood for no less than five months, meaning the cost of production in northern Syria would reach at least 3500 US dollars.

The US dollar is equivalent to 32.7 Turkish lira, according to the Currency Exchange Union rate adopted in the region of Idlib.

The craftsman attributed the low price of Egyptian furniture to several factors, the most important being the abundance of labor in Egypt, the very cheap availability of raw materials for the industry, and the reliance on modern machines for carving wood quickly, with high precision and low costs.

High quality and cheap prices

Customers of furniture in northern Syria usually have to choose between price and quality. Some are forced to buy acceptable furniture regardless of the quality level due to their limited purchasing power, while others are forced to buy good quality furniture but at very high prices.

The presence of Egyptian furniture provided customers with an option that ensures both price and quality, compared to local furniture.

Hatem Suleiman, who works in furniture trading in Idlib, told Enab Baladi that 40% of the furniture customers are looking for quality, while the rest are trying to buy what they need according to their financial possibilities, without much concern for the quality level of the goods.

The price of a new Turkish bedroom made of melamine reaches 900 US dollars, while the price of a used room made of pressed wood is 400 US dollars, and the lifespan of these rooms does not exceed five years at best, according to the trader.

On the other hand, the price of a locally made bedroom of high-quality beech wood exceeds 3500 US dollars, while the price of an Egyptian imported bedroom made of beech wood is 1100 US dollars, with a lifespan of more than 20 years due to its high quality.

The trader added that Egyptian furniture provided good choices for all sorts of customers, even those with low income who cannot afford a full bedroom set, and now they can buy a beech wood bed for 85 to 90 US dollars, compared to the melamine bed which is priced at 75 US dollars.

The trader pointed out that the quantities of imported rooms from Egypt are very large, but only a small amount has arrived in northern Syria, waiting for other quantities to arrive, indicating that Egyptian furniture will sweep the local markets.

Most of the crafts and local products in Idlib, at various levels, face competition from imported goods, which lack control over the quantities entering the area, worrying the merchants and craftsmen, who in turn complain of financial losses and the threat to their livelihood.



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