VIII. Fibres


1. Rattan
2. Bamboos
3. Cork


A variety of fibres are obtained from natural forests, cultivated trees and grasses for domestic as well as commercial use. Many of them enter international trade, but only three of them, namely, rattan, bamboos and cork have been discussed over here in view of their significant commercial importance.

1. Rattan


1.1. Product description
1.2. Uses

1.3. Production
1.4. Harvesting
1.5. Processing
1.6. Domestic trade
1.7. International trade


1.1. Product description

Rattans or canes are the stems of climbing palms (subfamily Calamoideae) which grow throughout the Southeast Asian region, forming a characteristic component of many forest types. More than 600 species belonging to 13 genera are recognized, out of which 8 genera and some 300 species are recorded in Indonesia (Dransfield, 1979). Some 50 rattan species are used commercially (FAO, 1990). Rattan is normally a tree climber and produces long stems of great strength and remarkable pliability which make them easy to work with to produce finished products with intricate designs and fine quality. It is at present commercially by far the most important non-timber forest product in Southeast Asia, second only to timber.

1.2. Uses

The canes are used extensively for items such as chairs, beds, cupboards, tables, book-shelves, mats, kitchen utensils, umbrellas, lamp-shades, blind-shades, women's handbags, flower vases, hats, toys, walking sticks, umbrella handles, baskets, and sport goods. Originally rattan formed a small part of furniture manufacture. Due to its qualities of flexibility, resilience and aesthetic qualities, rattan was eventually used in making entire furniture models. Added value of raw (whole) or unprocessed rattan to finished rattan increases to over 1900%, whereas semi-processed or half-finished rattan (core) to finished rattan by 841% (Wiyono, 1988). This added value depends on the workmanship and creativity of the workers.

1.3. Production

Indonesia is the main producer. In an assessment made by Menon (1989), some 9.3 million hectares of forests have been identified as potentially productive rattan forests, and potential sustainable yield has been estimated to nearly 600,000 tonnes per year, of which about 250,000 tonnes was assessed to be commercially important. Actual production ranged between 113,431 in 1982 to 168,854 tonnes in 1988 with an average production of 141,251 tonnes per year during the period, indicating an increasing trend.

About 90 percent of the production comes from natural forests and the rest from plantations being raised by most of the major producing countries. A study on a rattan development project in Indonesia conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) during 1988 predicted annual production of 400,000 tonnes per year by the year 2000 (Menon, 1989).

So far neither a systematic inventory of rattan resources has been carried out, nor are inventory techniques for rattan available, because rattan has never, until very recently, attracted some attention. An initiative for developing inventory techniques for enumeration of rattan resources has been taken at the Kerala Forest Research Institute in India.

1.4. Harvesting

Harvesting and collecting rattan in Indonesia is regulated by the Forest Department through issuance of licences to individuals, companies and cooperatives. The licences are valid for six months, and specify name of the licensee, collection area, volume and species to be harvested. The royalty is paid to the forest department when rattan is extracted out of the forests.

Rattan harvesting is done manually with the help of simple tools such as long knives, hatches, axes and hooks. Harvesting methods are crude, arduous and wasteful. Very often parts of canes are left on the tree when they are pulled away, resulting in low production of young and low quality canes. Efforts are being made to improve harvesting methods to reduce this waste by employing pulleys, tackle and winches for pulling the rattan from the tree (Menon, 1989).

1.5. Processing


Processing includes, washing, cleaning, bleaching, drying, surface finishing and grading. It then enters in the world of commerce as rattan sticks, cane, core and split cane.

1.6. Domestic trade

Rattan is harvested by the people living near the forests, who sell it to the middlemen. The middlemen in return sell it to the collectors. The collectors act as agents to the licensees or to the cooperatives or processing companies in the towns or cities. Most of the rattan finally concentrates in Java where rattan industries are situated and from where most exports emanate.

Rattan price increases as it moves along the market chain. About 40 percent of the price is estimated to be the share of traders, cost of handling and transportation (ADB, 1992).

1.7. International trade

Based on import statistics, in 1992 world's rattan trade valued at US$ 88,229,000, against US$ 52,471,000 in 1990, i.e. an increase of 68% (Table 2). The average value of the world's trade in rattan is US$ 66,070,000 (1988 to 1992). Discrepancies in export and import statistics are obvious in Table 2, but import information, being generally more reliable has been used to estimate value of world's trade volume.

Table 2. Value of world's rattan trade (1988-1992)

Year


Value (1000 US$)

Imports

Exports

1988

62,816

22,635

1989

70,542

75,042

1990

57,292

56,077

1991

52,471

49,142

1992

88,229

40,894

Average

66,070

48,558

Source: COMTRADE data base system

Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, are the major origins, each contributing 19.5%, 15.9%, 14.0% and 12.4%, respectively, to the world's rattan trade in 1992. Small quantities also originated from Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines and Kampuchea. Value of re-exports through Singapore and Hong Kong was 18.1% and 8.6%, respectively.

During 1992, Italy was the biggest rattan market, accounting for 16.0% of the world's total exports in 1992, followed by the USA (7.0%), Spain (6.3%), France (4.4%), Egypt (3.8%), Japan (3.3%), the Netherlands (3.2%), Germany (3.1%), Greece (3.0%) and Thailand (2.5%).

Indonesia used to dominate the world trade in raw rattan accounting for about 80 to 90 percent of the trade till a ban was imposed on export of raw rattan in 1979, followed by another ban on export of semi-processed rattan in 1988 to encourage domestic down stream processing.

Prior to the ban, Indonesia used to harvest around 120,000 tonnes of rattan every year during the seventies, most of which was exported in raw form. The highest export ever recorded was 100,000 tonnes during 1979 (Rag, 1990). Exports of semi-finished rattan were also banned in July 1988. Consequently, Indonesian rattan exports shrunk to an average of 882 tonnes per year during 1989 to 1991 (Table 3). This, however, does not tally with the import records obtained from COMRADE data base. It appears that in spite of the ban on raw/semi-processed rattan, unrecorded export is still going on. Such exports are, however, not documented in the Indonesian export records, but are reflected in records of importing countries. Under reporting to the extent of 91.3% (average) has been noticed in the export statistics of Indonesia (Table 4).

Table 3. Rattan: exports from Indonesia


1991

1990

1989

Total (Tonnes)

196.03

1747.48

703.54

Value (US$)

446693.00

3042725.00

1063055.00

Price per tonne (fob)

2278.70

1741.21

1511.01

of which to:




Finland

6.00

19.85

54.40

Netherlands

23.00

568.44

31.29

Taiwan

16.48

423.70

-

Australia

8.95

0.04

10.72

United Kingdom

11.87

103.84

56.55

Germany

6.50

133.88

15.50

Italy

42.50

135.50

163.00

Spain

16.60

321.82

-

Republic of Korea

3.78

-

34.05

France

5.35

40.40

-

Panama

55.00

-

-

Japan

-

-

4.53

Hang Kong

-

-

330.00

U.S.A.

-

-

3.50

Source: Biro Pusat Statistik, Indonesia, Jakarta.

Table 4. Discrepancies in export and import trade in rattan, originating from Indonesia

Year


Value (000 US$)

Extent of under reporting (%)


Imports

Exports

1989

17,646

1,053

94.0

1990

11,188

3,042

72.8

1991

10,428

446

95.7

1992

14,043

121

99.1

Average

10,661

932

91.3

Source: COMTRADE data base

2. Bamboos


2.1. Product description
2.2. Uses
2.3. Production
2.4. Trade
2.5. Prices


2.1. Product description

Bamboo has been used from time immemorial for a variety of purposes in daily life of over half the human race. It holds an important position among the NWFPs mainly because of its value as a raw material for the paper industry, and its multiple commercial and domestic uses. Over 75 genera and 1,250 species of bamboos occur in the world (FAO, 1978), most of them occurring in the tropical belt. However, relatively few of these, about 50 species, are regularly used. About 14 million hectares of the earth's surface are covered with bamboo forests, of which 80 percent are in Asia, Southeast Asia in particular.

2.2. Uses

Uses of bamboos are legion: housing (90% of the people in Bangladesh live in Bamboo houses), mats, blinds, furniture, scaffolding, ladder, fencing, banana props, fish pens, containers, pipes, toys, musical instruments, handicrafts, tooth picks, chopsticks, raw material for pulp and paper, and food in the form of bamboo shoots. Bamboo serves as a live fence, wind break and prevents river bank erosion.

2.3. Production

Total annual harvests are estimated around 20 million tonne; annually, with China and India accounting for over 60 percent. In China, about 3.4 million hectares are under bamboos with standing stock of 71.22 million tonnes and annual yield of about 7 million tonnes, roughly 2 million tonnes per hectare (Sulthoni, 1990). The most important commercial bamboo is Phvllostachys pubescens. More than 100 factories of various sizes are engaged in production of bamboo plywood, particle board;, hard boards, laminated furniture, and moulded and woven bamboo products. Several modern bamboo mills are being constructed in appropriate regions where bamboos exists.

In India natural and planted bamboos occupy 10 million hectares and constitute 13 percent of the entire forest area (Sulthoni, 1990), with a potential annual cut of 4.6 million tonnes. Bamboo is extensively planted by villagers on their marginal lands. Bamboo meets more than 65 percent of the total requirements of the raw material for the paper and pulp industry in India. Air dried bamboos yield nearly 40 percent long fibre chemical pulp. Price of bamboos varies greatly, depending upon the end-use. The pulp mill pay Rs. 300 per tonne Based on this price, potential value of annual cut was estimated at Rs. 1,367 million (Gupta, 1991).

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are other bamboo producing countries.

2.4. Trade

Total world trade in bamboo was of the order of US$ 23.4 million in 1988, and US$ 44.9 million in 1992, showing an increase of about 92% in a period of 5 years, or 18.4% per annum. Average value of the exports from 1988 to 1992 was US$ 36.2 million 1. China accounted for 65.7% of the exports during 1992, followed by Thailand (10.1%). Malaysia, Burma, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh being minor exporters.

1 COMTRADE data base.

In 1992, EEC countries were the major importers of bamboo, collectively accounting for 53% of the world's total imports. Out of the EEC countries, France, Germany and the Netherlands were the major importers, accounting for 17.1%, 14.4% and 9.6%, respectively, of the world's total imports.

2.5. Prices

Average export prices (fob) of Indonesian bamboos were US$ 164.21, 166.67, 127.48 and 231.44 per tonne during 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991, respectively. Average price (fob) of bamboo exported from Malaysian during 1988, 1989 and 1990 was M$ 452.98, 654.25 and 813.72, per tonne, respectively. During 1991-92 average price (fob) of Indian bamboos was Rs. 10.34 per Kg; Rs. 6.96 per Kg for whole bamboos and Rs. 13.72 per Kg for bamboo canes.

3. Cork


3.1. Product description
3.2. Uses.
3.3. Harvesting and processing
3.4. Production
3.5. Trade
3.6. Prospects and constraints


3.1. Product description

Cork is bark of cork oak (Quercus suber), which has the quality of recreating itself after each peeling. It is porous, flexible and fire- and water-resistant. It floats and insulates against noise and cold.

3.2. Uses.

More than half of the Portuguese cork becomes bottle stoppers, while the rest is used to produce floor covering, insulation, shoe soles, construction materials and even car parts. While bottle stoppers for high quality wines constitute a stable market for good quality cork, in most other end-uses competing materials, notably plastics have made considerable inroads in cork markets.

3.3. Harvesting and processing

Cork forests are managed as high forests or coppice. Cork oak trees regenerated by acorns take at least 30 years to reach the point of maturity, when their bark can be stripped for their first low quality cork, known as "borniz" or virgin cork, and is used only for crushing to make agglomerated boards. That obtained the second time is comparatively better, but the best quality cork is obtained from the third peeling. The cork obtained in the second peeling and afterwards is called "reproduction cork" which is used in making bottle stoppers. Cork is also taken from the branches of over 15 cm in diameter. The operation is performed during June to September. The tree can live as long as 200-300 years, but can be harvested only once every 9 or 10 years, this being necessary for the bark to grow back and for the tree to recover.

Peeling the bark from the tree requires skill and strength. A wrong cut that touches the inner core can wound the oak irreparably or ruin further harvests.

In the coppice system, the whole of the cork biomass is felled every 10 or 11 years and is taken to mills where the cork which always is "borniz" is separated from the wood and crushed.

3.4. Production

Cork oak grows over an estimated area of 2.4 million hectares in Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Portugal has the biggest and the best treated forests in the region, where roughly one-third of cork woodlands are located (Irwin, 1991). Total world production is estimated about 250,000 tonnes per annum, of which about 50% is produced in Portugal, 25% in Spain, and remaining 25% in Italy, France, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Portuguese cork is the best in the world, because of high quality of its cork and its state-of-art processing industry. Cork oak plays a key role in the Portuguese economy.

In France, over the last 50 years or so, the area of subericulture has declined by nearly half to 108,000 ha, of which 49,700 acres are effectively exploited. Production of cork has also fallen to 4,000 tonnes per year against production potential of 13,000 tonnes (FAO/EEC, 1988c). Causes for the decline appear to be the development of foreign cork industries and competition from cheaper synthetic insulating material such as polystyrene.

Morocco's cork oak forests are spread over an area of 100,000 ha. Cork oak cultivation and processing is a very important industry for Moroccan economy. Cork is one of the country's most valuable hard currency earning commodity.

3.5. Trade

Of the near 16,000 tonnes of processed natural cork imported into the EC in the 1991-92 period, 11,373 tonnes came from Portugal, 2,081 from Spain and 663 tonnes from Morocco . Morocco is the third largest exporter of cork and main non-EC origin for natural cork imported into the EC.

The Public Ledger's Commodity Week, August 29 1992.

3.6. Prospects and constraints

Cork oak's remarkable ability to reproduce its bark, makes the cork trade one of the environmentally sound sector of forestry. Although cork is rather hardy tree, its future is endangered. Its seed containing flowers are considered a culinary delicacy and are constantly picked as food, thus hindering the tree's natural regeneration process.