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Rising cost of raw materials threatens traditional crafts


In a special feature issued last Friday, Al Akhbar shed light on the handicraft sector which was drastically affected by the soaring exchange rate of the US dollar,thus leading to an increase in the cost of imported raw material and threatening the livelihoods of many craftspersons. Recalling, that this traditional industry which was at risk of extinction has recently become popular, with a growing demand from the younger generation to turn it from a hobby into a source of income which is often home-based. On the subject, Al Akhbar spoke to Faten Ghasham, 55, who grieved that the industry is declining and the situation is extremely miserable. The price of one wool yarn, she said, is currently sold at LL 15,000 not like the old days when she used to buy it for L.L 5000. And the price of an embroidery kit has reached  LL 17,000 when I used to get it at LL 3000, Ghasham noted, lamenting that customers are discouraged to buy when they discover the price. Likewise, for Iman Harfoush, 54, who knits for a living since 10 years, the US dollar has annihilated many households, including mine, she said. Before the dollar’s crisis, the proceeds were satisfactory, she had regular customers and she participated in several crafts expos. But today, no work no money, she said. On the other hand, the head of the Syndicate of Craftspeople in Lebanon, Zaher Radwan, pointed out that there is a golden opportunity to boost the craft sector through the development of a strategy that starts with bringing it under the umbrella of the ministry of tourism instead of the ministry of social affairs, and specifically under the authority of the Department for Rural Development and Youth, responsible for rural tourism. What is needed is not financial aid, but a conducive environment in laws and facilities, including the reservation of booths for artisans inside government-sponsored exhibitions, and the creation of craft markets in Lebanon and abroad. Noting, that the Lebanese handiworks are currently competitive in view of the declining cost of labor that has not been dollarized parallel to the exchange market price, while the price of raw materials has soared. (Al Akhbar, December 11, 2020)

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