23 - 30 May, 2001
Furniture manufacturers, who will shortly have to contend with the removal of import levies and increased foreign competition, have come together to face up to the challenges.
Over the last six months a small group of furniture producers have been working closely with IPSE to launch the Furniture Manufacturers Trade Group.
The group, which is open to all furniture makers, including the single-man garage operators, will seek to promote the interests of its members on the domestic and overseas markets. The Trade Group will also enhance co-operation and develop sustainable competitiveness for the industry.
Addressing a news conference yesterday, the founding members of the Trade Group were upbeat about the challenges their industry is facing. Their forward-looking attitude contrasts heavily with the doomsayers who are predicting economic disaster for the industry when levies are removed.
Mario Vella Petroni, a representative of the Trade Group, said the organisation will enforce a code of ethics on its members in the best interest of consumers. He expressed confidence in the quality of the work of Maltese manufacturers and insisted that they could compete with foreign imported furniture.
The representatives acknowledged that the going is not easy. They are aware that once levies are removed, the number of furniture importers will go up. However, they are convinced that as time rolls by the number of importers will reduce.
"Importing furniture is not an easy task. Foreign companies usually produce standard objects in bulk. Creating custom-made furniture in small quantities would increase the cost and furthermore if the consumer wants something repaired, it has to be imported", a representative explained.
The Trade Group will initially start off with small initiatives, however the founding members did not exclude that in the future they would co-operate on importation of raw material, marketing consultancy services and export of furniture.
IPSE calculates that there are almost 900 companies operating in the furniture industry. The vast majority of the enterprises employ less than five workers. The industry employs a total of almost 2,500 people. The number could easily reach 3,000 if the garage industries are calculated. The industry is locally-orientated with only 8.1 per cent of production being exported.