The American meteorologist Edward N. Lorenz came up with the concept of “The Butterfly Effect” to highlight the possibility that the smallest of actions may have significant effects. In the introduction to the Movie “The Butterfly Effect” the theory is summed up with the following quote:
“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world” - Chaos Theory
So, what has this to do with the long delivery delays on many rugs?
China is a major producer of modern handmade rugs, these are usually hand-tufted from materials such as acrylic or polyester. China is also the worlds largest producer of CO2 emissions, they create around 25% of the worlds CO2, burning nearly as much coal as the rest of the world put together. Because of this, China is currently battling with massive environmental issues, smog being one of the main culprits. To deal with this problem the Chinese government have had to step in with some drastic measures to reduce the relentless pollution in and around the major cities.
It’s fair to assume that China’s massive growth as an economy is largely down to turning a blind eye to the ecological issues. The main pollution is from heavy industries that burn fossil fuel; such as, steel, manufacturing and power.
While the actual production of rugs is primarily labour intensive and therefore not a direct hazard to the environment. Many of the manufactures backing plants use coal for the ovens, while the chemical plants that produce the polyester and acrylic fibre along with the dye facilities that colour the fibres do contribute to both air and water pollution if not checked.
With a serious health risk to the population and further problems with crop growth because smog is literally blocking the sunlight. It has reached a point when common sense must prevail. The Chinese government has acted to close some industries and severely restrict emissions to avoid events of apocalyptic proportions.
This action will cause a butterfly effect on much of China’s productivity and the ripples of these actions are now being felt around the world. In the case of rugs, many manufacturers are converting to gas for their backing plants while also struggling to get yarn supplies. The installation of gas powered backing plants combined with importing yarns from other countries will significantly increase the cost of the finished rug, making them uncompetitive.
The combination of poor supply and increased prices forces buyers and importers in Europe, America and the rest of the world to source the products elsewhere. Because things are never that straight-forward, this will initially increase demand, putting a strain on rug production in these areas of the world.
The logical place to source new rug producers is India, but there are differences between the yarns the Indians and Chinese work with, so its highly unlikely importers will achieve a like for like appearance of their existing products. New products are the likely result… and many importers across the world are currently scorching these new products.
At the same time, manufacturers of machine-made rugs in Turkey and the Middle East will be looking to increase their slice of the global trade. But there are limitations on colours and textures with machine-made rugs.
Importers will be forced to panic buy from the new supply chains and are likely to make errors in judgement. To counteract these potential errors they’ll probably order in smaller quantities initially, which will cause more delays when successful products sell out. The typical lead time, from order to delivery from India is three months, while an order from Turkey is six to eight weeks. Assuming there are no backlogs.
The environmental problems in China are likely to take decades to resolve. It’s going to take some time for importers to strike a balance between their suppliers in China and their suppliers in the rest of the world.
In the meantime, we are going to have to put up with delays on rugs and thousands of other products that are usually sourced from China.