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From left: Camille Needham, executive director, Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA); Nicola Madden Greig, president, JHTA; Sandra Scott, deputy director, Jamaica Tourist Board; and Donovan Perkins, chairman, Tourism Linkage Council, following the press conference at the Jamaica Pegasus on September 9 to announce the Jamaica Product Exchange scheduled for September 21-23, 2014 at the Montego Bay Conference Centre.

McNeill hosts inaugural meeting of Craft Council of Jamaica

Efforts to establish a central body to coordinate the development of the craft sector took a major leap as the newly appointed Craft Council of Jamaica had its inaugural meeting, signalling the commencement of a strategic process to totally streamline the craft sector.

Underscoring the importance of the new body, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill said, "Though craft cuts across a number of ministries, departments and agencies, up to this point there was no central body to coordinate the push to oversee the development of the sector in its entirety and monitor the quality of the items produced and sold as authentic Jamaican craft, so this council will be that body".

McNeill outlined that there are many long-standing issues which we must resolve in order to effectively develop the sector and harness its potential. Prime among them is the need to implement a proper governance structure and regulatory framework." He added that "this new craft council will serve as an integral mechanism to facilitate these changes and foster the sustainable development of the sector".

The council will serve as an interim body and includes representatives of local craft traders and producers as well as other stakeholder groups. These include the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, through the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, the Tourism Product Development Company and the Ministry of Youth & Culture.

Strategic streamline

It was emphasised that in recognising the need to more strategically streamline the industry and increase its contribution to the local economy, Cabinet has endorsed the development of a policy for craft.

The Craft Policy is intended to modernise the sector and has several objectives. Among them is to streamline the sector by facilitating incremental improvements in areas such as quality, variety, customer satisfaction and profits to the entire industry. It also seeks to facilitate the sustainable growth of the craft industry and will also promote greater local identity of finished craft and souvenirs. It will foster innovation, greater regulation, as well as better production and distribution.

McNeill stressed that "the council will play a pivotal role in overseeing the development of the policy. A crucial step in implementing the craft policy will be the establishment of a central legally constituted Craft Authority which will administer this process".

State Minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford expressed that "craft is a very important industry, and once we organise it sufficiently and market it effectively, then there is no reason why it can't be a very profitable sector. This craft council will help to drive this process and ensure that the various players in the sector have a say in the development of craft overall."

Chairman of the new Craft Council, Mary Helen Reece, said, "I feel honoured to be asked to chair this important body, and I look forward to working with the various stakeholders in the industry to implement the governance structures and regulations needed to transform the craft industry." 

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