More help for OECS arts and craft producers

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Monday August 16, 2010 – Manufacturers in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) want concessions for the sector as well as protection for the OECS market.

And the OECS Export Development Unit (OECS EDU), which is undertaking a diagnostic review and analysis of its clients in the Arts and Craft Sector in all nine member countries of the sub-region, says there is need for more appreciation of the industry which has made a significant contribution to economic development in the OECS.

Lesley-Ann Noel heads the Trinidad and Tobago based Manzanare Design Solutions Ltd who is conducting the consultancy.

“There are people who are making products out of screw pine straw like in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines. In Dominica you have the Kalinago groups working with Larouma straw, there is pottery in Antigua and Barbuda, throughout the region we have people doing good leather work, people working with calabash, wood workers, people doing shell craft and sand craft , people working with red or white clay. You could classify the crafts either by the materials or also by the processes used by people to make them. It’s a very large industry,” she said.

Noel says the audit will also seek to develop a technical assistance plan and a strategy to increase the competitiveness of products as well as identify potential markets in the Arts and Craft Sector. She adds that either unknown or ignored by some is the fact that there is a lucrative market in the Caribbean for OECS Arts and Craft.

“I think the fact that so many of our economies are based on tourism, it then makes the Arts and Craft sector which we have ignored in the past very lucrative. We have all of these cruise ship arrivals, we have stay over tourists, we have high end, medium end and low end tourism in the region and everybody is buying souvenirs. That, therefore, means that there are many opportunities for OECS crafts people,” she said.

“There is also the market in all the places where the tourists have to stay such as the hotels and the conference facilities. There are also markets for many of the crafts produced in the region. The market I think we are ignoring is the market that’s right here which is another form of export because of the fact that these people come here and we can be exporting through them.”

Meanwhile an Arts and Craft manufacturer in Dominica, Steven Dailey of Din Chel Crafts and Souvenirs, described the ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in the OECS Arts and Craft sector as unprecedented.

“I felt quite elated to see all the stakeholders together and it means a lot. However, we hope that this is not just a talk shop because we want to see it bear fruit,” he said.

Dailey has urged organizers to help in protecting the domestic market for OECS manufacturers: “We also need to see more control over the amount of imported crafts, and we are talking about from Asia and so on, that are coming into our country and devaluing our country based on the quality of products that we have. I think we need to see better going out from the individual OECS countries because we can produce very good products. I also think we need to have some form of concessions that would assist our Arts and Craft sector in significantly penetrating the market.”

Business Development Officer at the OECS Export Development Unit OECS EDU, Jennifer Julien-Laudat, said auditing of the Arts and Craft Sector seeks to understand its current status, challenges, and the contribution of the industry to the economies of the OECS.

She said the diagnostic review was inspired by participants from brainstorming meetings held with designers in all nine member territories.

The OECS EDU consultancy on the Arts and Craft Sector will continue across the OECS member states until November 4th.

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