From The Jakarta Post

Furniture makers urged to widen material base

Furniture makers must diversify their raw materials and begin moving away from teak, mahogany and rattan, to cope with acute shortages of these materials, an industry official says.

"Rather than relying on conventional materials whose prices continue to increase, I think the local industry should use substitutes such as coconut, jackfruit and durian trees," said Sae Tanangga Karim, executive director of the Indonesian Furniture Industry and Handicraft Association.

He also said that with the government's policy of limiting the felling of trees in natural forests, furniture producers should also consider importing all of their raw wood materials.

China, he said, had become the world's largest producer and exporter of furniture without cutting down a single tree. "The country imports all of its wood and rattan raw materials. But it managed to become the world's largest producer (of furniture) with total exports last year amounting to US$10 billion."

Rattan furniture producers are also suffering acute shortages of raw materials, despite the fact that Indonesia is the world's largest rattan producer, with 80 percent of the global rattan market.

Recently, Industry Minister Fahmi Idris asked the ministry of trade to ban rattan exports to protect local rattan furniture producers.

But Tanangga said producers of rattan furniture could use substitute raw materials such as abaca, dried bushes or herbs, and enceng gondok (water hyacinth).

He acknowledged that changing raw materials could possibly lead to short-term disturbances in the market, but said drastic action had to be taken to solve the problem of supply shortages and the resulting higher prices.

By diversifying their materials, he said, furniture producers can reduce their production costs, which currently account for 60 percent of total costs.

He also asked the government to help develop the furniture industry, which is losing market share locally and globally, by providing a solid legal basis to assist in its growth.

-- Benget Simbolon Tnb.
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