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Plans to place the regulation of the craft industry under one governing body have taken a significant step forward, said Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill.
Last weekend, the minister revealed that the initiative was recently discussed by the Economic Development Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, paving the way for the establishment of a craft authority.
He outlined the framework for a craft policy which will be administered by a legally constituted craft authority to representatives of the island's craft traders and producers at a consultation held recently at the offices of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in Montego Bay.
Craft vendors and producers were unanimous in their endorsement of the proposed craft authority and craft policy, which has four main objectives. These are to streamline the craft sector by facilitating incremental improvements in quality, variety, value, sales, customer satisfaction and profits; facilitate the sustainable growth of the craft industry in Jamaica to enable a successful enterprise; and promote greater local identity of finished craft and souvenirs, innovation, better packaging, regulation and production and distribution facilities.
In addition, the policy will outline strategic objectives, including the sourcing of raw materials, the packaging and branding of an authentic Jamaican brand, and ensuring that local craft producers and traditional artisans benefit from the marketing and commercial opportunities provided by the tourism industry.
McNeill told the craft traders that while the legal aspects of establishing the authority are being addressed, a craft council will be put in place in the interim to start streamlining the industry as a matter of urgency. The council will include representatives of local craft traders and producers, as well as other stakeholder groups.
He said the establishment of the craft authority will take governance of the craft industry out of the hands of the political directorate and place it before a board on which the traders and producers will have adequate representation. Through the authority, he said they will help to determine what they want done and how resources earmarked for improvement of the sector will be disbursed.
McNeill stressed that "it's really going to be run like a company, and you are going to have to make decisions that are for the greater good of the industry as everyone has to work together".
The minister said the authority would maintain control and discipline in the craft markets and emphasised that "the majority of people in the craft markets want a craft market that is a place where everyone can visit and enjoy themselves".
Echoing the sentiments of members who described the introduction of the craft authority and craft council as "a very, very good idea", president of the National Craft Traders and Producers' Association, Melody Haughton-Adams, said lack of unity was a major obstacle for the sector. However, she expressed, "I am thankful for the council. We and the producers' association met and the very same thing was recommended." She added that, "I am really delighted and can say that we are getting somewhere."
Meanwhile, a representative of the craft producers, secretary of the Jamaica Indigenous Artisan Co-operative Society (JAMIA), Michael Senior, said, "The presentation was everything I imagined it to be, and I'm happy." He reiterated that JAMIA had been in dialogue with the traders association about forming a council.