Pakistan exports 55.8 mn footballs for World Cup
Sialkot, May 28 (IANS) Pakistan has exported over 55.8 million footballs worth more than Rs.8.5 billion ($185 million) for the World Cup in Germany beginning June 9. Manufacturers and exporters engaged in the soccer ball industry in this city are making hectic efforts to meet demands of foreign buyers and ensure speedy and timely delivery of the consignments.
According to industry sources, over 85 percent of the total production of soccer balls in the world comes from Sialkot, while all international brands are sourcing their supply from this export-oriented city and nucleus of the country's cottage industry.
Over 40 million balls worth $210 million are produced annually by nearly 60,000-strong highly skilled workforce of Sialkot.
Its main forte is hand stitched inflatable balls, which have been produced for almost a century now, and are being exported to world markets by more than 1,000 entrepreneurs. An added impetus has been provided as the local industry has been purged of the stigma of child labour.
The stitching of soccer balls started in Sialkot during the 20th century with supplies sent to the British forces, but after independence, the industry grew at an impressive pace, making the world recognise the formidable position of this city vis-à-vis its favourite sport.
Today, almost all international buyers rush to Sialkot to secure their supply chains, building strong and long-term business relations with the local exporters.
In the 1980s, Sialkot gained 'international celebrity' status when it produced the 'Tango' ball used in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which led to further growth of the industry. The success story of Sialkot-based industries is attributed to the unmatched skill and craftsmanship of local workers.
With a century-old industrial base, the city has developed an incredible export culture over the decades, and is contributing up to $800 million to the national exchequer annually. The city is sprinkled with thousands of small and medium enterprises engaged in honouring their global export commitments for value-added quality goods including sports items, surgical instruments, leather products, gloves and musical instruments.
At the moment, however, the city is gripped mainly by football fever, with business activity at its peak in and around the city.
A rush of cargo agents is witnessed at the Sialkot dry port for clearance and dispatch of soccer ball consignments well before the commencement of the World Cup, while the Collectorate of Customs has also extended the working hours to facilitate exporters.