The estimated number of Saudi craftsmen in the Kingdom has reached 9,248 out of a total of 20,671 craftsmen currently residing in the country. The majority of Saudi craftsmen are said to be elderly and no longer practicing their trade, according to a report issued by the national program for the development of handicrafts and industries, also known as ‘Baree’.
Jasser Herbish, general supervisor of the National Program for Craftsmen, said: “There are some challenges facing the Saudi craft sector, including the low number of craftsmen, competition from foreign labor for handicrafts, external trade monopolization, the existence of modern machines to imitate a lot of handmade products, the foreign products invasion in the Saudi market, the declining number of outlets, limited raw materials which have high prices, in addition to the lack of funding for handicrafts and industries nation-wide.”
Herbish said that the national program seeks to find solutions to reduce these challenges, confirming that the handicrafts sector is primarily an economic sector rather than a heritage one, according to the surveys undertaken by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and its partners.
He added that there are several initiatives happening today that aim to support and finance craft products, including the World Bank for Credit and Savings Initiative, and the establishment of a private company to finance craftsmen which has now signed some 45 agreements with shopping malls to showcase handicraft products. In addition, Baree is also working to create a special outlet for marketing hand-made products online, and hopes to secure all necessary requirements and regulations that guarantee the rights of both the consumer and seller.
Source: Arab News