Iran Rug Ban to Have Little Effect

If proposed trade sanctions against Iran are accepted by the U.S. Senate, Iranian rugs again will be barred from legal entry into the United States. But the effect on the rug industry will be minimal, rug importers say.

Iran is known as the cradle of rug weaving, but in the past 20 years the American market has moved on; India, China, and Pakistan have taken over as major source countries.

"Iran doesn't respond to color and design like China and India," said Hari Tummala, executive vice president of Kas Oriental Rugs, which imports largely from the latter two. "Iranian producers tend to make rugs in the traditional colors and designs, but Americans want rugs that coordinate with their furniture."

Iranian rug imports have been drifting downward since the last embargo was lifted in 2000. In 2006, Iranian carpet and rug shipments to the United States amounted to $108.6 million, about 10% of the $1 billion in total, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

From January through July 2007, Iranian rug shipments were valued at $49.7 million, down nearly 25% compared to the $66 million shipped to the United States in the first seven months of 2006.

While over 90% of U.S. handmade rug imports come from India, China, Pakistan and Nepal, there is still a market for Iranian rugs, according to Reza Momeni, president of Momeni Rugs.

"We do well with a range of Gabbeh rugs that are hand knotted in Iran," said Momeni. "The hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind nature of these tribal rugs has great appeal for people who are interested in having something unique."

Although the consensus in the rug community is that the ban won't have a major impact on the market, there is concern in some quarters.

"An embargo is not good for our industry," said Momeni. "In the consumer's mind, all rugs are related. They don't differentiate between one country and another."

Kami Navid, svp of Jaunty Rug, voiced a similar view: "This is negative publicity for the entire rug business. Consumers might well think all rugs come from Iran, and it will stop them from buying rugs altogether."

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved legislation designed to broaden existing U.S. sanctions against Iran, including the importation of rugs. The bill now goes to the Senate.

(Reported by Lissa Wyman, rug editor of HTT sister publication Furniture Today.)

Featured Video

  • The Countdown to the ICON Honors Continues featuring Christophe Pourny

    Camera Icon More Videos