The Government is making “all out efforts” to exploit the economic potential of the craft industry to generate employment, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Larry Cartwright said.

“It is estimated that with the quantity and calibre of craft products being produced now and with the success of the ongoing training programs by BAIC, exports may be possible in the very near future,” he said.

Mr Cartwright was speaking at the third annual general meeting of the Bahamas National Craft Association this week.

Despite constraints, the handicraft sector “has shown remarkable growth,” said Mr Cartwright. “This is visible from the various displays and expositions.”

Crafts which have exhibited “remarkable progress” include embroidered and crocheted goods, wood crafts, straw works, sea-shell and coconut crafts.

“The outstanding craft of handmade quilts must not go unnoticed and I invite BAIC and others to make an effort to include the quilt makers in their plans for the future as well,” said Mr Cartwright. “We must not let this special skill die.”

He encouraged crafts persons to tap into the export market.

“I invite you as you sit in conclave to brainstorm about ways to commence and boost the export of handicrafts from this country,” said Mr Cartwright.

In order to provide a permanent marketing platform to the artisans, Mr Cartwright suggested that a calendar of craft bazaars in different parts of the country for 2009 and years to come be prepared.

“These craft bazaars could be organized through effective partners and artisans who could be given stalls in the bazaars based on their requirement and request,” he said.

Continuing education and skills training, he added, “must be the hallmark” of artisans.

“More educated and better trained crafts persons at all levels of the handicraft and souvenir industry,” he said, “means better quality, greater quantity and more creativity.

“It is therefore necessary that sufficient inputs like improved technology and design, required infrastructure for production, supply of quality raw material, market intelligence are made available to the crafters.”

Concern about meeting working capital needs should be addressed, said Mr Cartwright.

“The handicrafts sector has a tremendous potential for growth and building the national economy. Employ good judgement, originality, best practices and creativity in your design and finished product. Be not afraid to invest. Seek to use value-added items. Seek out new markets and the rewards will be bountiful.

“When you sell an item, do so with the assurance, confidence and guarantee that the quality went into it before the name was attached.”