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The rattan industry at a glance

Minor tropical forest products such as rattans and bamboos are increasingly gaining application in the sector of furniture industry resulting to their growing contribution to economy and establishing employment to a large number of people.

Rattan is being used by 700 million people globally. Trading of rattan has grown rapidly into a multimillion-dollar business. Worldwide raw rattan trading is valued at $50 million. Rattan finished products, by the time it reaches the customer, has increased its worth to $1.2 billion. Overall global trading value is estimated at $4 billion while domestic trade is $2.5 million.

According to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) 2005 annual report, cane, a term used interchangeably with rattan, and bamboo furniture’s export value reached $1.22 billion in 2005. China was the only consuming country with extensive manufacturing and exporting of rattan and bamboo furniture using domestic raw materials. Singapore was the biggest importer of rattan and bamboo finished products and parts with a total trading value worth $50 million. And with almost no rattan resources, it is remarkable to note that Singapore earned additional $21 million by manufacturing and processing semi-finished products. China holds the record as the biggest exporter of rattan and bamboo furniture.

In the 1970s, Indonesia supplies 70% of the world’s rattan requirements becoming its chief supplier. The export value has increased an astounding 250-fold in Indonesia in just 17 years, 75-fold in the Philippines in 15 years, 23-fold in Thailand in 9 years and 12-fold in Malaysia in 8 years. Rattan exporting countries have set their target market with Indonesia on the lead aiming $700 million and Singapore targets $60 million. Rattan trade had been significant even at the start of the century.

Rattan is known for its simplicity and elegance. Its manufacturing costs are nominal. It is not harmful to the environment since it is recyclable. The different processes used in the rattan industry are basic and require simple tools and machines.

Rattan has more than 700 species mostly found in the Southeast Asian wilds, 10% of which are commercially traded. Indonesia topping the list with 312 species, 28 types are traded, Malaysia with 311, 30 varieties are exported, Philippines 96, Brunei Darussalam 80, Thailand 62, Lao PDR 44, Myanmar 38, Vietnam 30, and Cambodia with 11.types. But as the wild forests become scarcer in the Asian region, other materials like split bamboo are utilized as alternate.

Evidently a large amount of the harvested rattans traded commercially are exported to manufacturing companies in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, North America and Europe. This resulted to several rattan producing countries initiating export tax and export ban for raw rattan thus encouraging manufacturing rattan products in the producing countries. It also means that exported rattan products have higher value and supplies of wild rattans are conserved at the same time. On the other hand, these bans have set tremendous pressure on rattan supplies in countries where rattan export is not regulated, resulting to rigorous exploitation of wild forests.
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