Domestic destiny for iconic teak and rattan
Cinde W Ingram -- Casual Living, 6/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
Rich, Raw material resources intertwined with a culture of handcrafting makes furniture one of Indonesia's most important exports. But the global financial crisis that started in 2008 has impacted the demand for furniture from Indonesia, including teak and rattan products.
This year, the Indonesian government announced new policies to discontinue export of rattan as raw material. The policy aims at developing more furniture manufacturing within the country and encouraging local designers to use more rattan in furniture and handicraft-products, according to Ni Made Ayu Marthini, commercial attaché for the Republic of Indonesia in Washington, D.C.
The United States is one of Indonesia's biggest markets for furniture exports. In 2011, Indonesia exported $567 million to the U.S. furniture marketplace, which accounts for almost $40 billion annually. Overall, Indonesia's economy grew by 6.3% in the first quarter compared with the same period last year. Top contributors were the farming, forestry and fishery sectors with 20.9% growth, due to the first-quarter harvesting season, the Central Statistics Agency reported.
"Many foreign investors welcomed greater regulatory and legal certainty as well as infrastructure improvements and efforts to make doing business in Indonesia easier," United Kingdom Trade and Investment Minister Stephen Green said during his visit there last month. The UK and Indonesia also launched a priority visa service in May to ease business travel.
For as long as many furniture importers can remember, Indonesia has represented a primary source of teak and rattan.
The Balinese first became known for their hand-carving skills in the 1930s, when the Dutch discovered what they thought of as a little paradise among the coconut trees, Marthini said. The cities of Java, Bali, Sumatra and Tibara cultivated their citizens' inherent craftsmanship and those areas became famous for making furniture and accessories. People from other areas arrived because they needed furniture for homes and hotels, especially as tourism grew. By the 1970s, the Indonesian government had built some of the infrastructure needed to support the country's growing furniture industry.
Today, about 85% of rattan comes from Indonesia, Marthini said. "Whether for rattan poles or its peelings for woven products, rattan is considered one of the world's most durable, environmentally friendly furniture materials because it regrows if harvested correctly," she said.
For decades, the Indonesian government has enforced policies to manage its sustainable and durable teak and rattan resources, allowing each the time needed to grow. Most of those raw materials are derived from Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Furniture production has been based in Central Java (like Cirebon, Jepara, Solo, Yogyakarta and Surabaya) and the island of Bali. Recently, the Indonesian government decided it wanted to increase efficiencies by spreading out furniture production into other parts of the country. A small percentage of furnishings is sold domestically, but the majority is for export, said Hotmida Purba, director of the Indonesia Trade Promotion Center in Chicago.
This year the government announced it will create other furniture manufacturing centers. "If you have the technology and craftsmanship, the sky is the limit as far as creativity," said Hatta Sinatra, one of the members of the Indonesia Furniture and CraftAssociation.
Teak, reclaimed teak and mahogany furniture tends toward the high end of the price point range and is mostly sold through specialty retailers or designers. Some casual furniture manufacturers now combine teak with other materials to offer a value-added price and different eco-friendly styles.
"Jewels of Java has made a strategic decision to offer strong designs in teak and Viro combinations in order to set a standard that goes above and beyond the designs offered by mass merchants," said Barbara Simeon, business manager of upstate New York-based outdoor furniture manufacturer Jewels of Java, which produces in Indonesia. "Our dealers must have a strong alternative to the low-price designs that are available from other sources."
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