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Trelawny craft producers, traders cry foul

BY HORACE HINES Sunday Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 04, 2014    

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SALT MARSH, Trelawny — Elisha Cummings, better known as Flyer and Tony, like most of the craft producers and traders of this seaside community, is disillusioned over what he said are unfulfilled promises from officials for producers and traders to sell their wares on the $7.5 billion Falmouth Cruise Shipping Pier, opened three years ago.

The disenchanted artisans are claiming that prior to the opening of the pier they were given the commitment that groups of craft vendors would be allowed to display their wares for sale on a rotation basis at the facility.

The craftsmen, whose patience have now run thin, are enquiring why up to now the first set of craft vendors on the pier has not been rotated to allow them an opportunity to get "a slice of the tourism dollars."

Cummings, who has been a wood sculptor for over three decades, is among the dejected vendors who want "justice."

"The same set a man dem a eat food and that is no justice. Those things will make people get corrupt and make crime escalate. How can they make one set a people a eat food? The thing should rotate as was promised," said Cummings.

Errol Barrett, another seasoned craft producer, expressed too that the reneging on an agreement to rotate craft vendors on the pier is unfair.

"If they rotate the thing I think it would be better. Say even maybe 20 or 30 of us get two months and after that they get another group, and after that they get another group again. So automatically everybody will get a eat off the food," he argued.

But when contacted William Tatham, vice-president, cruise shipping and marina operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), said that his organisation gave no commitment for the rotation of vendors on the pier, arguing that the retail space is under the control of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which operates the pier.

"The Port Authority made no such promises. The Port Authority does not own any retail space on the pier, it is owned by the Royal Caribbean," Tatham said.

He said, however, that he has heard of the issue, but is unable to say who gave such a commitment to the craft producers and trades.

The construction of the pier is a joint effort between the PAJ and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

When contacted, Deputy Mayor of Falmouth Colin Gager, who was the Mayor of Falmouth and Chairman of the Trelawny Parish Council during the construction of the pier, said he recalled that a deal was hammered out with stakeholders to allow the rotation of craft vendors at the facility.

He pointed out that it was under the initiative which resulted in the current set of craft vendors plying their wares on the pier.

Mayor of Falmouth Garth Wilkinson who is also the People's National Party's councillor for the Falmouth Division, also conceded that the craft vendors got a commitment from stakeholders, including the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Social Development Commission (SDC) and Royal Caribbean.

He explained, however, that there was an estimated 100 craft vendors operating between the two major craft trading areas in Trelawny — Bamboo Village in Cooper's Pen and Salt Marsh — when the commitment was given.

He added, however, that before the registration of the craft vendors was complete, the number rose to over 1,000 across the parish.

"That is what caused the problem. Too much persons became craft vendors. There was no way that such a large number of persons could be accommodated on the pier," Wilkinson argued, noting that plans are far advanced for the establishment of a craft village in the parish to accommodate more vendors.

Efforts to contact Jamaica Land, which represents the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, were unsuccessful.

At a meeting in Montego Bay recently, Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill 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.

Craft vendors and producers at that meeting were unanimous in their endorsement of the proposed Craft Authority and Craft Policy, which seek 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 Jamaica' brand, and ensuring that local craft producers and traditional artisans benefit from the marketing and commercial opportunities provided by the tourism industry.

But Cummings is sceptical of the proposed Craft Authority and Craft Policy, arguing that even after he spent money to

obtain Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) certification, he is yet to get on the pier to sell

craft items.

"I have heard about it, but it come in like me afraid fi even go in a anything that them a say again. If them come up with anything fi pay money or fi do any course or anything like that, me naw do it,"

he argued.

Scores of residents in and around the community of Salt Marsh, located on the outskirts of Falmouth, rely heavily on fishing and wood carving for a livelihood.

Many of the craft producers and traders, some of whom display their wood carvings in booths along the roadside in the community, are also complaining that they get "little or no business" from the hundreds of tourists who travel along the busy corridor every day.

"Only a few motor cars stop with tourists to patronise us. The big tour buses don't stop," Barrett told the

Sunday Observer.

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