Bespoke Beads proprietor Petra Cayman designs her ornaments on Frederick Street, Port of Spain. –
EXPORT Centres Company Ltd (ECCL) chairman Roger Roach said the local craft sector has the potential to have a positive impact on TT’s economy and people.
Roach underscored this point to members of the Parliament’s State Enterprises Joint Select Committee (JSC) in Port of Spain on Monday.
During the meeting, JSC members were also told about initiatives being taken by ECCL to tap into the sector’s potential, including working with the First People and exploring opportunities for more Carnival costumes to be made locally.
“We have a craft sector that is thriving in TT.”
Roach listed scented candles and handbags amongst the items being created by entrepreneurs in this sector for the local and external market.
The ECCL was established in 1994, and its mandate is to develop this sector for Trinidad and Tobago’s benefit. Roach said this is reflected in the company’s 2022-2025 strategic plan.
“This mandate instructs the company to train citizens to become certified craft entrepreneurs. Thus creating sustainable employment in the craft industry.”
ECCL is actively seeking strategic partnerships with other entities to achieve its mandate, which includes creating opportunities for craft entrepreneurs to sell their products locally and overseas.
Roach said, “Within the last 12 months, ECCL has provided over 400 artisans with the opportunity to sell their merchandise at ECCL’s pop-up markets.”
Roach told JSC members that ECCL is in discussions with the Airports Authority and Port Authority for designated spots for craft entreprenurs at airports and sea ports.
He also disclosed that ECCL has engaged the Sport and Community Development Ministry (its line ministry) and the Public Administration Ministry “to help us in identifying a space or building for a permanent national craft mall.”
Roach also said the company’s e-commerce platform Craft Hub TT “also allows for the monitoring and evaluation of craft sales and other analytics which can be used to improve training programmes, merchandise development, innovation and production requirements.”
JSC chairman, Independent Senator Anthony Vieira, admitted to confusing ECCL with ExporTT.
Roach said ECCL focuses more on training entrepreneurs in craft, while ExporTT is seeking markets for TT’s products. ExporTT reports to the Trade and Industry Ministry.
While craft is seen as a hobby for some people, Roach said it can be transformed into a viable economic endeavour for entrepreneurs.
ECCL business development manager Sa’Nia Carasquero said the company assists craft entrepreneurs to source raw materials for their products locally. She identified leather as one material used by craft artisans which had been difficult to source during the covid19 pandemic.
Carasquero also said ECCL is exploring means of greater local production of Carnival costumes within the craft sector.
Roach observed that a lot of the production, with respect to accessing raw materials, has been outsourced to countries such as China and Pakistan over the years. He said problems such as an inability to properly manufacture Carnival costumes could arise should there be a shortage of materials in foreign countries or challenges importing the materials.
Roach did not believe a ban on raw materials for Carnival costumes was a solution to this problem.
He said a solution was to increase local awareness that Carnival costumes can be made locally and for people “to have a mindset to purchase them.”
Government Senator Laurel Lezama Lee Sing was happy to hear from Carasquero that craft products made by TT’s First People were being sold on Craft Hub TT.
Carasquero also said ECCL is speaking with the First People about ways they could teach their craft-making skills to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Responding to a question from Government Senator Richie Sookhai, ECCL CEO Adwin Cox said the company is speaking with the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) about ensuring appropriate quality testing for local craft products.
Roach acknowledged Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh’s suggestion that ECCL work closely with entities such as local government corporations to better educate the public about its activities and how they could benefit from them.
Indarsingh said within his own constituency, many people did not know much about the ECCL.