Furniture industry can create jobs

The furniture industry has the potential to contribute to job creation and poverty alleviation, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Speaking to finalists and stakeholders at the Furniture Design Competition on Thursday, Minister Davies said the country's Industrial Policy Action Plan and the National Industrial Policy Framework identify the furniture manufacturing industry as having significant potential to create a labour-intensive industry that can grow jobs through expanding production.

The Minister said the industry's current production capacity was underutilised, and the established resource and manufacturing base makes it an attractive sector.

The industry can capitalise on the available opportunities and growth prospects that will contribute to both employment and economic growth, as prescribed by the National Industrial Policy Framework.

"We have introduced designations for local procurement to ensure local production at a specified level of local content. All public sector entities at all levels of government are required to observe an instruction note in terms of the Preferential Procurement Regulation Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) issued by the Minister of Finance for the designation of furniture.

"The note stipulates that school furniture must be 100% procured from local manufacturers, office furniture 85% and bedding (base) and mattress must be 90% procured from local manufacturers," said the Minister.

He said the harsh reality was that the furniture manufacturing sector has been the worst affected by the economic slowdown and has seen the contribution to the GDP standing at 1.1% in 2014.

Production in the sector fell 1.6% in 2014 on an annual basis. Employment decreased from 38 267 people in 2009 to slightly over 26 000 in 2014.

Minister Davies said while it was important to constantly improve the industry's competitiveness, it was understood that South Africa should not seek to compete at low price or quality level, but should rather focus on quality, reliability and differentiated designs.

The second annual National Furniture Design Competition forms part of the dti's Furniture Strategy and the Industrial Policy Action Plan to address the shortage of high-level skills and modern innovative designs in the furniture industry.

The competition seeks to provide seating and waiting solutions for public spaces and government institutions such as airports, health institutions, municipalities and other government entities that interact with the public in one way or the other.