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Let us support local producers! May Pen tailor laments lull in market as persons turn to imported goods

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2016 | 1:00 AMShanique Samuels
Some of the items made by Oliver Henry.
Oliver Henry performs his craft.
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MAY PEN, Clarendon:

The talents of skilled labourers such as tailors and dressmakers are slowly becoming obsolete as persons utilise these services to a lesser extent.

Oliver Henry has been a tailor by profession for more than 30 years. Apart from making clothes and uniforms, he also produces schoolbags, handbags, cosmetic bags, Bible pouches, and he also does upholstering.

Over the years, the market has dwindled significantly, and so he is now at a standstill where making clothes is concerned.

"Nutten naa gwaan ya now because everybody a run fi di Chinese-made goods because they are cheaper than the locally made products," Henry told Rural Xpress. He also theorises that because the Chinese-made products are imported into the island for resale are mass produced, the wholesalers are more willing to purchase those items at a reasonable cost so they can afford to sell them back to the consumers at a much cheaper price.

As a result, Henry says he no longer gets the first preference of making clothes from scratch. Instead, his ability to skillfully cut and sew various pieces of garments for both males and females is reduced to merely adjusting the clothes after they are purchased from the stores.

"In times gone by, I used to sit around my machine and work whole day and people used to just come and pick up their stuff, but now, people prefer to go to the store and buy, yet they will come to the small man to trust when they don't have the money because if dem no have the money, dem can't go Mr Chin's store."

"Those clothes are not strong, but they are cheap, so we can't compete with the Chiney man. While the quality we give is far better, we still not getting the market. The people dem nah watch the quality, dem just a watch the price. One time, a businessman ordered some bags and when I made them, he said he couldn't take all of them because the price he will pay me for 100, he can get 4,000 for that price from China," he explained to Rural Xpress.

Henry does not have a real market for his goods, which he supplies consistently. He relies on private individuals to purchase his items, and those purchases are few and far between.

"I would like the public to get to a stage where they start buying back Jamaican-made goods and support the local producers. I would also like very much to get the opportunity to teach the trade to other people who are willing to learn, whether it be at a school, evening institution for adults, or even at a golden age home. I see the potential for us to teach the children the skill and we start manufacturing goods on a large scale and export it like the Chiney dem. This move will surely create jobs for many people."

Henry has expressed his interest in making promotional items such as bags or T-shirts. Even though he works alone most of the time, he has six sewing machines in full working order and has the man power to complement him in case he gets a big job.

rural@gleanerjm.com