Talking about the changeable weather here in the United Kingdom is a national pastime. Our proximity to the Gulf Stream combined with the ever-fluctuating patterns of the Jet Stream is just two of the reasons we see the inclement weather across our fair land. And, there is also the debate on global warming commonly believed to be accelerated by man, but counter-argued by some that this is normal for an interglacial period. Or in other words, It's getting warmer anyway, because we are still at the back end of the last ice age.
Either way, it’s a globally accepted fact that the planet is going to get hotter. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to environmental issues, but it makes perfect sense to me to use the power of the elements wherever possible.
In countries like India, natural elements like the sun and wind have been used to aid many of the phases of rug production. Activities like dying and drying of yarn are normally done out in the open or under canopies. Dying is hot messy work that requires the boiling of dyestuff and rotating the undyed yarn in the dye to ensure a constant colour. Once dyed the yarn is normally hung or laid to dry naturally in the open air.
In India, they have been producing rugs this way since the 16th century, since then generations of weavers and rug makers have been honing their skills to create this enormous cottage industry. Over 75% of carpets and rugs made in India are exported and today India is the largest producer of handmade carpets in the world accounting for around 40% of the production. The largest importers are the USA $731.84 million (USD), Germany $140.58 million (USD) and the UK $78.52 million (USD). Most of these rugs and carpets are produced in the Utter Pradesh region in and around the city of Bhadohi.
Centres for most traditional industries don’t usually happen by accident. The production of rugs in Bhadohi possibly arose from its proximity to the Silk Road, it’s access to water, raw materials and its dry arid climate, for 9 months of the year. Then comes the rainy season July, August and September where the average rainfall jumps from 18mm to 263mm with the month of July peaking to around 300mm of rain, compare that to the United Kingdom’s average of 71mm. In a typical year, the United Kingdom will see around 854mm of rainfall compared with Bhadohi’s 951mm. Needless to say, there’s a lot of water falling in Bhadohi during the rainy season.
As you can imagine during the rains there is a lot of halted production, even working under canopies can hinder the flow of work in persistent rain. The rainy season is also one of the busiest for rug production, as it’s the precursor to the busy autumn and Christmas trade here in the west. So, forward planning for the Indian companies who make the rugs is essential during the rainy season.
Whether it’s a family barbecue or a day at the seaside, we’ve all had our plans scuppered by inclement weather. The weather patterns here appear to be getting more inconsistent, year on year. There is no denying the problem of climate change is global and in India, they are also seeing unpredictable changes in the weather patterns, mainly higher temperatures and erratic rainfall. To an industry that does a high majority of its work outdoors, the changing climate becomes a big issue.
This year we have seen more delays in rug production due to heavy rain. When seeking information and revised timescales for production, the relentless optimism of our Indian partners can be very frustrating. Their culture appears to have a built-in mechanism, designed to anticipate the best in a bad situation. If there isn’t an immediate solution, they often just wait, hoping things will sort out themselves. Dianne Sharma Winter a seasoned traveller of India put it this way, “In India, no one likes to say NO outright, especially to a guest”. And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie “The Life of Pi”, you’ll understand why it’s better to be told an extravagant story rather than hear the painful facts.
The rainy season comes to the Uttar Pradesh region of India every year and delays are anticipated. The painful fact is, with the ever-changing climate associated with greenhouse gas, the rainy season in Uttar Pradesh is getting wetter. The domino effect means rug orders are being delayed and the information we receive is like the British summer, optimistically patchy.
During the month of September, India should really be seeing a significant drop in the rainfall, but today, 30th September 2019, I received the following message from the factory in India: “This is to inform you that we are going through an unexpected wet spell, with continuous rains and very little sunshine. The prediction extends to this entire week and has literally been so these past 2 weeks.
Production all over the place has come to a veritable stand still as apart from the wet ground, some areas are partially flooded and some with no electricity.
Please be informed as this may lead to some inevitable delays in production, since many of our stages of production are dependent on a dry ground and sunny weather.
We are trying our level best to dispatch as many orders as possible on schedule.
Thank you for bearing with us.”
At the same time here in the UK we are anticipating the arrival or Hurricane Lorenzo as it became the most eastern most category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean. Quoting a delivery time for a bespoke rug between the months of June and September, we tend to add, “but, it could take a little longer”. This summer some of the delays we have experienced have been excessive, these delays have been caused by adverse weather. Possibly the same adverse weather patterns that are are happening on a global scale.