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Al-Safafir, one of oldest markets in Kuwait ‘struggling for survival’

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Shortage of skilled and experienced manpower

KUWAIT CITY, May 28: Al-Safafir, one of the oldest and believed to be the only heritage market in the Gulf, where people can purchase their copper, steel or aluminum needs, including barbecue tools, is literally struggling for survival because the market now looks abandoned for various reasons – the main reason being the shortage of skilled and experienced manpower due to non-graduate expatriates, 60 years and above having left the market after the government introduced new rules and regulations for renewal of work permits, reports Al- Qabas daily.

Al-Safafir market

During a field tour of this market, the daily found something was amiss, there were no buyers or customers, the market wore an empty look and most of the shop owners were seen yawning and others looking to entertain customers. They complained of lack of sales which coincides unfortunately, with the rising prices of raw materials needed to manufacture various.

Price levels
The workers say the price levels of raw materials have increased by about 80 percent compared to two years ago, which has resulted in a rise in the prices of manufactured products, noting that among the tools used in manufacturing are iron, wood, steel, aluminum and kirby, and that these materials are imported from China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Dubai) and the Sultanate of Oman as well. In the past, the cost of shipping was around 200 dinars and took from one to two months to arrive, but now it has risen to 1,200 dinars — the cost of shipping the 20-foot container and now takes 4 months to arrive.

One of the shop owners in the market stated that the season of work and activity and sales movement in this market, is from October to March. These six months are the most active months for this market, during which shop owners can make profits. He indicated that the percentage of profits on orders in this market ranges between 20-30 percent, noting that most of the work is through wholesale orders for shops, companies and associations, which in turn sell them at a higher margin. As for dealing with individuals, the profits may reach 30-40 percent

During our tour of the market the daily noticed that a number of shops were closed for a period of time by government order and when asked about the reason, it became clear that its owners were unable to pay rents for months, which is what the majority of workers in this market fear the most. One of the shop owners said that this market in Kuwait is the only one of its kind in the Gulf in terms of quality and manufacturing, as customers come from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to buy their needs of metal products. Shop owners said the market today is facing many challenges and difficulties including the increase in the prices of raw materials is not less than 80% compared to the past two years, the political conditions and the Russian- Ukrainian war have caused the prices of raw materials to rise as well, and a further rise is expected, lack of skilled workers in manufacturing due to the Corona crisis, changing the manufacturing pattern from handicraft to using machines and equipment, not opening the door for visas to bring in new trained and professional workers to advance this market and increase in the salaries of workers from 200 and 250 dinars to 400 dinars, which constitutes another burden on shop owners.

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