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crafts in the midst of a crisis, between pandemic and rising raw material prices

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As Italy prepares for its exit from the health crisis by gradually lifting restrictions, small artisans are sounding the alarm and asking the government to come to their aid to save an essential part of the national economy. Many of them have already given up and gone out of business for lack of cash. “ The State has not been very generous with us, it has forgotten some of its children “says Roman designer Daniela Accardi.

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Before the pandemic, this Italian, originally from Sardinia, specialized in the work of silk and cashmere that she imported from India. Twice a year, she took several planes to talk to her suppliers, old-fashioned weavers settled at the foot of the Himalayas, then returned with suitcases full of samples. And then, the prices rose and its Italian customers, the big brands, revised their budgets downwards. One morning, Daniela Accardi decided to turn the page on the Indian adventure. “ I understood that I had to renew myself, reinvent my style and my fabrics. I contacted small Sardinian craftsmen. It was not easy because we had to start all over again and build a new network “, she explains.

Business seemed to be booming except that the coronavirus arrived and the difficulties started again for Daniela Accardi and the small Italian artisans who used a good part of their reserves during the pandemic. ” Continuing to work today is not easy. In addition to the economic consequences of the pandemic, there is now the question of raw materials, which we sorely lack. In this context, resuming colors will not be an easy task and the entire sector is now at risk. “says Daniela Accardi.

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Marginalized SMEs

However, it is clear that the craft crisis is not new. To the economic difficulties aggravated by the hardened competition of the craftsmen of Asian origin who break the market, is added the crisis of vocation among the younger generations. For example, the number of businesses run by people under the age of thirty has fallen by almost 42% nationally since 2011. According to the Confédération des artisans (CNA), some 28,000 SMEs have closed shop in over the past eleven years.

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On the other hand, the number of small businesses whose bosses are 70 years old and sometimes even older, has increased by 47%, particularly in the south of the country. But with the pandemic and now soaring prices, staying straight in your boots is no easy feat, even for seniors. As everywhere else, the prices of materials are constantly climbing and delivery times are getting longer. “ Finding raw materials is difficult and contracts are at risk “says Daniela Accardi. All sectors are penalized, even arts and crafts, leather, ceramics and glass. In Murano, near Venice for example, artisans specializing in blown glass had managed to run their engines during the pandemic. They are now starting to turn off their ovens, which have to stay on 24 hours a day because of soaring gas prices.

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According to estimates by Murano glaziers, the ovens of the sixty SMEs concerned consume around 8 million cubic meters of gas per year. With the rise in prices, the bill for these small businesses, which averaged 2 million euros per year, rose to more than 8 million. An unsustainable expense for most artisans. For some, continuing to work has almost become a disadvantage “, Luciano Gambaro, president of the Promovetro Murano consortium, recently declared to the Italian press. World-renowned companies have already slowed down, such as the glazier Effetre, which turned off its six ovens. In Sassuolo, in Emilia-Romagna, the ceramic region in the center of the country, the scenario is identical. “ If it continues like this, Italian SMEs will no longer be on the market », Laments Giovanni Savorani, president of the Confederation of Ceramic Manufacturers.

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