JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment is spearheading a new craft strategy, placing more emphasis on authentic Jamaican creations.
  • The Government will embark on an authentic Jamaica Brand initiative, with items only available in the craft markets.
  • The Ministry is looking at improving the registration process, so that a craft vendor can be identified in his or her own right as an individual who is willing to participate in the programme.

The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment is spearheading a new craft strategy, placing more emphasis on authentic Jamaican creations, to ensure that greater benefits are derived from the $4 billion art and craft industry.

State Minister in the Ministry, Hon. Damion Crawford, tells JIS News in an interview that the strategy is to enhance and increase the profitability of the craft sector, particularly for persons who participate in the vending of craft in the tourism areas.

“Craft is divided among many areas, but there are some problems we have identified from multiple consultations with the craft vendors, one of which is the diversity available,” Mr. Crawford says.

He explains that the Government will embark on an authentic Jamaica Brand initiative, with items only available in the craft markets.

“Never before has this been done to improve the competitiveness of the craft markets.  Currently, the vendor is selling the same or identical products as those that are available in the hotel or the in-bond stores, and they are at a competitive disadvantage, either by proximity or by the capacity to promote,” Mr. Crawford notes.

He also points out that the Ministry is looking at improving the registration process, so that a craft vendor can be identified in his or her own right as an individual who is willing to participate in the programme.

“We want to see the day when craft items that are sold, in the main, are not imported. Unfortunately, this is the reality that we currently face. In fact, many of the items are imported from (countries) where the relevance of the craft is not captured and by extension, the demand for the craft does not exist,” the State Minister says.

Mr. Crawford notes that currently, there is a prevalence of items depicting giraffes, elephants and lions in the craft sector, none of which represents the Jamaican culture.

The State Minister tells JIS News that even though the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has reduced the country’s ability to use tariffs, the Government is “seeking to have the place of origin stamped on these craft (items) and make it illegal for them to apply the name Jamaica on imported craft.”

“We need to reduce the unreasonable competition. So, we are looking at a multimodal approach, as it relates to craft, including engaging the HEART Trust/ NTA to train persons in craft making, in particular as it relates to the authentic Jamaican designs that are agreed to be made by other persons,” Mr. Crawford says.

“We hope that by putting these things together we can start earning an estimated US$17 per person, per visitor, on craft which would make that a $4 billion industry. So, if we can transform craft into a $4 billion industry, we would have gone a far way in improving the lives and the economic activity of persons engaged in tourism,” he adds.

Meanwhile, speaking in Parliament recently, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, informed that the Ministry has put together a concept paper towards the development of a craft policy for Jamaica, which was approved by Cabinet in November.

“We believe that there has to be a policy that governs them,” Dr. McNeill said, adding that it has four main objectives.

These include: streamlining the craft sector by facilitating incremental improvements in quality, variety, value, sales, customer satisfaction and profits; facilitating the sustainable growth of the craft industry in Jamaica; promoting greater local identity of finished craft and souvenirs, innovation, and better packaging; and establishing  production and distribution facilities.

In addition, the policy will outline strategic objectives, including the sourcing of raw materials, the packaging and branding, and ensuring that local craft producers and traditional artisans benefit from the marketing and commercial opportunities provided by the tourism industry.  A Craft Council will coordinate craft activities, marketing  and  promotions.

Dr. McNeill pointed out that consultations have been held with the craft traders, and their input would be taken into consideration when the policy is being developed.

“It is our intention to set up a body or an authority which will govern the craft markets, and level the playingfield, so that all markets have the same rules and regulations,” the Minister said.

Craft Vendor at the Negril Craft Market, Rocky Madourie, says he is in support of the initiative.

“That would be a good policy for Jamaicans. Tourism is our main source of income and we at the craft market do our own work, so it would be good,” he tells JIS News.

Another craft vendor, Joan, who sells Jamaican products, says she is also in support of the policy. “That’s a good idea,” she says.