Football production to be raised

ISLAMABAD - `Forward Sports, one of the sports manufacturers in Sialkot which had been given a contract to produce 3,000 Brazuca footballs for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil believes they can raise their share of world football production from current 18 per cent to 50 per cent in four years.

Forward's CEO, Khawaja Masood Akhtar said Forward Sports' success is a sign that Sialkot, an established leather products centre located in Punjab province, is starting to win back orders lost to rivals in east and south-east Asia during first decade of the new century, says a press release issued here by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). 

"Pakistan was the world's leading football manufacturer until the 1990s, and I hope Pakistan can regain its position. Pakistan can regain much lost share of football manufacturing from China, Vietnam and Indonesia," he said adding that it can raise its share of world football production from its current 18 per cent to 50 per cent in four years. "We get an edge with our labour wages as they are cheaper than China."

But it is not just more competitive wages that are bringing resurgence in demand to Sialkot's leather industry. Companies like Forward Sports have had to increase productivity, improve quality and working conditions, and embrace new technology in order to comply with the requirements of foreign buyers.

These challenging tasks are being met with help from the Leather Products Development Institute (LPDI), a training centre established by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in March 2001. The LPDI equips local leather companies and their workers with the knowledge and skills needed to compete on the international market. According to Muhammad Atif, LPDI's former project manager, Forward Sports is one of the Sialkot-based leather companies that have benefited from the services the Institute provides.

He said that some of Forward's 1,400 workers have received "training in quality control and more efficient production techniques," and that the company has been tested for compliance with required working conditions and environmental standards, including its ability to provide "clean drinking water and low noise levels" and its capacity to deal with waste water and reduce emissions.

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