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Abdul Razak Mohd Ali and Raja Barizan R.S

1. Introduction

Rattan (family Palmae/Arecaceae) is considered to be the most important non-wood forest product in Peninsular Malaysia. It belongs to a large subfamily of the palms known as the Calamoideae (Uhl and Dransfield, 1987). About 600 different rattan species belonging to 13 genera are found in the world. In Peninsular Malaysia alone, 106 species (8 genera) occur naturally (Dransfield, 1979). However, of these, only about 30 species are utilized and exploited commercially. In Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia covering an area of 12.5 million ha, rattan flora is very diverse. A total of 105 species with eight genera have been identified (Dransfield, 1992) and a great number of species are endemic. Such richness is partly due to the presence of diverse forest habitats.

The rattan industry in Sarawak is still at the developmental stage. The two government departments currently involved in research and trial plantations of rattan are the Forestry Department and the Agriculture Department. KERESA and Rajang Wood Sendirian Berhad are two private agencies currently involved in rattan plantations. However, some of the areas already planted with rattan are likely to be converted soon to oil palm due to the better prospects and higher economic value of oil palm.

About 84 species of rattan are found in Sabah (Dransfield 1984). The Forestry Department of Sabah began small-scale research on rattan cultivation in 1979. Research in this area was also prompted by a growing interest in creating a man-made rattan resource. Subsequently, several public and government organizations embarked on rattan plantations. As of mid-1996, the total area of rattan plantation in Sabah was about 23,157 ha. Innoprise Corporation Sendirian Berhad (ICSB) accounts for almost 43 percent of the total area planted, followed by the Sabah Forestry Development Authority (SAFODA) with 42 percent; Jeroco Plantation, 8 percent; and Sejati Plantation, 7 percent.

Malaysia is fortunate to be endowed with plenty of raw materials from its forests. However, the contribution of the rattan-based industry to the country's economy is relatively very small - US$21.7 million - compared to the wood-based industry which generated about US$666.1 million of export earnings in 1997 (Ministry of Primary Industries, 1998). This is meagre compared to countries like Hong Kong and Singapore that exported rattan products valued at US$53 million and US$23 million, respectively. It must be noted that the two latter countries do not have any natural resources of their own. This amount far exceeded Malaysia's exports, and something needs to be done in order to upgrade and establish rattan-based industries as a main industry in the development of forest product activities. This is in line with the Malaysia Industrial Master Plan (IMP) that calls for a rapid development in the downstream production of the forest-based industries.

2. Status of the Resource in Natural Forests

Since 1972, three national forest inventories (NFI-1, NFI-2, and NFI-3) have been carried out to assess and determine the status of the various natural forest resources in Peninsular Malaysia. The third inventory (NFI-3) was jointly carried out in 1991/92 by the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia (FDPM) and FAO under a UNDP project (Chin et al., 1994). Besides estimating tree stocking, non-wood forest products such as rattan, bamboo and palm resources were also enumerated. Table 1 shows the estimated number of rattan clumps present according to forest strata in the Permanent Reserve Forests (PRFs) in Peninsular Malaysia. It was estimated that the total number of rattan plants (irrespective of age) found in PRFs in Peninsular Malaysia amounted to around 32.7 million, of which the most abundant (about 37%) were Korthalsia species. Of Calamus species, C. manan is the most abundant one with around 5.9 million (irrespective of age). In terms of distribution according to forest strata, it was found that the forest logged during the period 1971-1980 seem to have the highest number of rattan plants (40.2%). Table 2 shows that the state of Pahang, which has the largest PFRs, also has the largest rattan resource base (37.2%).

2.1 Development strategy

The growing commercial demand for rattan resources in Peninsular Malaysia warrants the need to formulate appropriate strategies to assess, manage, develop and conserve this valuable non-wood resource. Some of the strategies include:

∑ continue assessing the rattan resource in natural forests so that forest development and management plans can be drawn up to ensure its sustainability;

∑ replenish the rattan resource through large-scale cultivation with species of high commercial value in order to sustain the increasing needs of the rattan-based industry;

∑ determine the socio-economic contribution and impact of the rattan resource to the rural and urban communities and the rattan industry; and

∑ collect data on the rattan industry including, those pertaining to demand, supply and utilization of the rattan resource and employment opportunities.

Table 1. Estimated number of rattan clumps according to forest strata and commercial rattan groups in the Permanent Reserved Forests, Peninsular Malaysia based on NFI-3 (in thousand clumps)

Rattan groups

Forest Stratum

Calamus manan

Calamus tumidus




Korthalsia spp.


% of







1 197.1

3 580.3








2 145.5

3 875.5



1 017.2





1 659.7

5 143.5









1 299.0


Logged during


3 011.8


1 513.1


3 475.1

3 822.6

13 161.9


Logged during







1 676.9

3 202.1


Logged during and before 1960







2 439.9



5 911.0

3 227.2

2 866.6

3 016.1

5 611.9

12 069.4

32 702.2


% of total









The state forest departments have been implementing rattan-planting programmes since the early 1980s in an effort to replenish the rattan resource in PRFs and also as an activity to rehabilitate the forests. Besides allocation of development funds by state governments, the Federal Government is also providing financial assistance from the timber exports levy to be used for rattan planting and management (Harnarinder & Chin, 1999). A sum of $M 17 824 550 has been granted to plant 9,430 ha over the five-year period 1998-2002. An additional $M 8 100 400 has been allocated to carry out maintenance and silvicultural treatments in 13,832 ha of planted area.

Table 2. Estimated number of rattan clumps according to States and commercial rattan groups in the Permanent Reserved Forests, Peninsular Malaysia based on NFI-3

(in thousand clumps)


Rattan groups


Calamus manan









Korthalsia spp.


% of








1 027.2

2 672.4








1 041.0

2 609.9








1 374.8

3 960.9











N. Sembilan










2 288.7

1 247.6

1 087.7

1 046.9

2 022.4

4 460.7

12 154.1



1 020.1





2 192.2

5 854.2











Pulau Pinang
























1 250.2

3 639.7



5 991.0

3 227

2 866.6

3 016.1

5 611.9

12 069.4

32 702.2


2.2 Choice of rattan species

In Peninsular Malaysia, only 30 species are presently collected and utilized by the rattan industry for a variety of purposes (Appendix 1). A list of some important and popular species used in the rattan industry in Malaysia is shown in Appendix 2. Large-diameter canes are mainly used for making furniture frames while small canes are used for tying and other parts of furniture. The most important commercial canes come from the genus Calamus. The five most important species, in terms of utilization and cultivation are:

Calamus manan (rotan manau) is the best large-diameter (>18mm) cane and is usually confined to the steep slopes of hill dipterocarp forests. It was once abundant at 600-1000 m altitude and grows well when planted on flat lowlands. It is a solitary and high climbing rattan reaching 100 m or more. For optimum growth, the species requires about 60 percent of light. It grows well under rubber trees, with growth rates around 0.3-3.0 m/a (Aminuddin & Nur Supardi, 1994).

Calamus tumidus (rotan manau tikus) is classed under the large-diameter group but its canes are always smaller than those of Calamus manan. The cane is used locally in a way similar to that of C. manan. The habit is solitary, high-climbing and it is a rather rare rattan of freshwater swamp forest, peat swamp forest and on alluvial flats.

Calamus scipionum (rotan semambu) is a widespread lowland species growing up to 200 m altitude. It is found on alluvial soils in flood plains of rivers and in secondary forests but not in primary dipterocarp forests. The cane is used for making walking sticks and umbrella handles because it has long internodes. The species is a clustering type with 5-10 stems per clump, climbing high up to 50 m or more. The growth rate of the cane is slower than that of C. manan, about 0.15-1.5 m/a.

Calamus caesius (rotan sega) is the best smaller diameter (<18mm) cane. It is used for all types of binding and weaving in the furniture industry, and in the finest basket ware. The habit is clustering, with more than 100 stems per cluster, and high-climbing reaching about 100 m or more in length. The species is found in the lowlands such as alluvial flats, freshwater swamps, margins of peat swamp forests to hill slopes up to 800 m altitude. The clump tends to be rather close and dense. The advantage is its multiple-stem habit, which allows repeated harvests to be carried out without the need of replanting.

Calamus trachycoleus (rotan irit) is a small-diameter cane (<18 mm). It is a clustering dioecious species with a more open type of clumping, producing additional stems via long stolons, which have the potential of increasing the number of aerial stems exponentially. It grows on seasonally flooded riverbanks on alluvial clays and margins of peat swamp forests. In general, the canes of this species have shorter internodes, smaller diameter and thinner layer of silica than C. caesius. However, there is more demand for it for weaving purposes because its cane is softer, more pliable and easier to work with. Its habit is multiple-stem like sega, and needs no replanting. This species is not indigenous to Peninsular Malaysia and records are based on plants introduced for trials.

2.3 Resource management

The richest rattan habitats - the lowland dipterocarp forests - have mostly been converted to oil palm and rubber plantations. Furthermore, the remaining commercial forest areas are now highly accessible as a result of the construction of logging roads. This has resulted in heavy and unsustainable exploitation of rattans. In order to maintain the resource, large-scale rattan plantations offer a solution. Land identified as suitable for establishing rattan plantations is logged forests (newly logged or old logged forest) and existing plantations (tree forest, abandoned or commercial rubber plantations and oil palm plantations). Virgin forests with heavy canopy and low light levels on the floor are not recommended for rattan cultivation.

The choice of species for commercial cultivation will have to take into account numerous factors, of which profitability is probably the most important one. The quality of the cane must be acceptable to the industry either as raw cane or semi-processed or finished product. Other important factors are the gestation period, and whether the species is single or multiple-stemmed. This will determine whether single or multiple harvests can be obtained. Sufficient knowledge of the silviculture of the species chosen is crucial.

2.3.1. Cultivation in natural forests

In Peninsular Malaysia, large-scale cultivation of rattan, especially the most economically important species C. manan, has been undertaken since the mid-1980s. Many of the state forestry departments have been carrying out rattan planting in logged-over natural forests using yearly budget allocations from the Silvicultural Cess Fund or Forest Development Fund of each state. By the end of 1997, a total of 15,000 ha had been planted with rattan in a number of PRFs throughout the peninsula (Harnarinder & Chin, 1999). More than 80 percent of the area was planted with large-diameter cane, C. manan only, and the remaining area was planted with small-diameter canes, C. caesius and C. trachycoleus.

2.3.2. Rattan cultivation in forest plantation

A number of land development agencies, such as the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA), the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), and private companies such as Kurnia Setia, Guthries and Golden Hope Plantations, have also initiated rattan plantations. They interplanted rattan in rubber and oil palm plantations and smallholdings. In Peninsular Malaysia, about 91 ha of Pinus caribaea plantations were interplanted with rotan manau in the Kemasul Forest Plantation, Mentakab, Pahang in 1986. When the canes overtopped the pine trees, either whole trees or branches and shoots were bent or broken. The branches of the pine trees were not strong enough to support the weight of rotan manau. In the same area in 1986, about 10 ha of Pinus caribaea were planted with a clustering rattan species, Calamus caesius. C. caesius performed well and vigorously dominated the areas. This posed a difficulty for the main crop - how to manage the pines? It can be concluded that clustering small-diameter cane species are not suitable for interplanting in commercial plantation forests (Raja Barizan and Chong, 1999).

In Sabah and Sarawak, a number of public agencies and private companies have actively planted rattan to enlarge significantly the resource base in the country. Commercial planting of C. caesius in Sabah was started in the early 1980s. To date the species remains the most important small-diameter cane for planting in Sabah. In 1988, Innoprise Corporation Sendirian Berhad (ICSB), a commercial holding company of Sabah Foundation, started a rattan plantation in Luasong Forestry Centre, about 100 km northwest of Tawau, Sabah. The objective of this project was to enrich a logged-over forest by line-planting rattans and to provide cash income before the next timber harvesting cycle. Besides that, SAFODA and Sejati Plantation Sendirian Berhad Sabah have attempted to plant rattans under Acacia mangium. Two species of rattan, Calamus manan (a solitary species) and C. merrillii (a clustering species from the Philippines), have been planted under A. mangium on a trial basis at Ulu Tungud, Sabah.

2.3.3. Rattan interplanting in abandoned or well-managed rubber plantations

Rattan species have been intercropped with rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) trees in either well-managed commercial rubber plantations or smallholdings and abandoned or semi-abandoned plantations. During 1981/1982, SAFODA of Sabah planted several hundred hectares of rattan, mainly C. caesius, under 10-year old or older rubber plantations. The rubber trees were still being tapped rather irregularly. In Sarawak, C. caesius was interplanted with rubber trees in the semi-abandoned rubber holding along the Sungai Sebetan, Seratok. Here, rubber trees were not tapped regularly. The rattan plants were planted haphazardly and grew irregularly. Thus, rubber trees can undoubtedly be used as support or shade trees for growing rattans successfully, but only abandoned rubber holdings are suitable for multiple-stemmed small-diameter canes such as C. caesius and C. trachycoleus (Tan, 1992). In this case, rattan would be the main crop while rubber tapping the secondary one.

Rattan interplanting in well-managed commercial rubber plantations was established according to a concept similar to agroforestry. This was aimed at increasing the yield of land and supplement the income of smallholders/rural people. The income was estimated to be more than sufficient to cover the costs of replanting rubber (Salleh & Aminuddin, 1986). The survival and stem growth of rotan manau planted under rubber trees in plantations were reported to be better than when this species was planted under forests. The establishment of rattan in rubber plantation is more cost-effective than planting in forest areas. This is because the prevailing conditions in managed rubber plantation are almost ready-made for immediate establishment of rattan seedlings.

Rattan plants are usually planted in the middle of rubber tree rows. The planting distance of rattan under rubber varies according to the rubber spacing. Another approach has been to plant rattan in every other row of rubber trees. Another method was to group two or three rattan plants at each planting point. From various studies, it was observed that rotan manau seedlings required about 60 percent relative light intensity (RLI) that is considered to be a fairly open condition. This suitable light condition can be attained under rubber trees.

In Peninsular Malaysia, so far only three species have been found to be suitable for growing under rubber: C. manan (rotan manau), C. scipionum (rotan semambu), and C. palustris (rotan manau langkawi). The techniques of planting rotan manau under rubber trees have been well developed. The age of rubber trees at intercropping and planting densities per hectare are also important factors that need to be determined before embarking on planting. Four to seven-year old rubber trees were found to be best for intercropping with rotan manau.

Although intercropping rattan with rubber trees appears feasible, rattan should be viewed as a supplementary crop only. In the planning phase, rattan planting should be timed for harvesting when the rubber trees are reaching the stage when they need replanting, i.e. at around 25 years of age. This would minimize the difficulties encountered during harvesting of rattan, and prevent damage to the rubber tree that could occur if the cane is harvested earlier. A longer planting time would mean that the canes are allowed to reach maturity and are more suitable for commercial processing.

Different clones of rubber probably vary with regard to their suitability as support and shade trees because of differences in branching habits, maximum height attainable, strength of branches, adaptability to soil conditions and proneness to wind damage. RRIM 600 clone was found suitable for intercropping with rattan because it has low branches and is easy for rattans to cling on with their cirri or flagella (Aminuddin et. al., 1991). Another clone, PB 260, has high and strong branches, is only suitable for supporting mature rattan, but can hold 2-4 rattan plants. Clones which are under groupings similar to RRIM 600 are RRIM 712, RRIM 701, PB 255 and PB 217, whilst rubber clones that bear criteria similar to PB 260 are RRIM 623, RRIM 901, GT 1, PB 235, PM 10. No studies have been carried out to investigate whether latex production of individual rubber trees is affected by the presence of rattan plants.

With intercropping of rattan and rubber, some management problems can occur: Rattan can hinder tapping operations (Raja Barizan and Chong, 1999). The dense crown of rattan can prolong the drying of the bole of the rubber trees after a rain. Rattan harvesting can damage the branches of the rubber trees as well.

2.3.4. Developing intercropping systems with other crops

Planting rattan under other crops such as oil palm is still under investigation. The growth of six-year old Calamus manan (rotan manau) planted under 13-year old oil palm at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) Paka plantation, in Terengganu, appeared good. Annual height increment was 1.5 m (Nur Supardi & Suboh, unpublished data). However, there are some management problems that have to be solved first. The rattan crown hindered the harvesting of oil palm fruit bunches and, consequently, caused a drop in the quantity of fruits collected. When the oil palm frond was pruned, the rattan crown fell to the ground, causing shoot damage.

Planting rattan (rotan manau and rotan sega) integrated with bamboo is being investigated in FRIM. Gigantochloa laevis (Buloh Beting) was chosen as an alternative support tree for rattan. In this trial, rattan was treated as the main crop. Using bamboo as support tree would ease rattan harvesting later. This integrated planting would also increase land yield with harvests of bamboo shoots (rebung) from the third year onwards. This study needs to be monitored further before the ability of Buloh Beting as a support plant can be established.

2.3.5. Raising of planting stock

Rattan can be propagated from seeds, wildings, suckers or tissue cultured material. Seeds are the most important planting material for large-scale rattan plantations. They are relatively easy to obtain in large quantities from established plantations, which are now good sources of seed. However, these plantations were not established using selected seed material. The Forest Department of Peninsular Malaysia has identified the potential seed production areas (SPAs) for the production of high-quality rattan seeds.

Small wildings collected from the forest floor also can be used as a source of planting material. However, wildings are not good for large-scale plantations due to their availability only in small quantities and scattered over a large area in the forest.

Tissue culture techniques using embryos or tissue from the shoot apex region have been used in propagating rattan plants. Although planting material developed from micropropagation techniques is too costly, a high proportion of the plantlets produced are identical to the original mother plant. Rattan plants can be micropropagated on a large scale. At present some work on micropropagation through somatic embryogenesis of large cane species - Calamus manan, C. subinermis and C. merrillii - has been carried out in the Plant Biotechnology Laboratory, Innoprise Corporation/CIRAD-ForÍt, Tawau, Sabah (Goh, 1988). C. merrillii demonstrated most prospects for regeneration via somatic embryogenesis.

3. Rattan Collection

According to the National Forestry Act (NFA) 1984, a licence is needed to harvest rattan from the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE) and Stateland Forests. Under the provision in the NFA 1984 and its amended version of 1994, besides requiring a licence, there are also other regulations to be adhered to in rattan production, such as payment of premium, royalty, forest development cess, licence fee and registration fee to the state government for application as a contractor. Rattan is normally cut and gathered by rattan gatherers. These gatherers generally obtain permits for cutting rattan from the government through the state forest department. These permits are renewable annually and are given for 250 acres per permit.

The rate of collection of royalties and the implementation of the licensing procedure varies from state to state. On average, the royalty rate for Calamus manan (large-diameter cane) and C. caesius (small-diameter cane) is $M 0.20/m and $M 0.10 per 100/m, respectively (Poh et al., 1995). The state of Pahang imposes its licence fee based on the size of the area applied for, whereas others impose a flat rate per licence. Depending on the different states, the registration fee that is charged varies from a highest $M 100.00/year to a lowest $M 20.00.

Although rattan is quite heavily exploited in Sarawak, there is no record of production levels. The main reason is that there is no royalty collected by the State. To collect rattan, a permit is required, for which a monthly fee of $M 1.00 is charged. However, no permit is required if rattan is collected for domestic use. In Sabah, the royalty collected from rattan is lumped under miscellaneous forest revenues and, as such, it is not possible to gauge the production level. The present royalty rate charged is $M 400/t. A permit or a licence is required for the extraction of rattan from the forest. The monthly fee is $M 5.00/person.

3.1 Developing harvesting techniques

At present, rattan harvesting from the wild is being done mainly by the Malay aborigines, the orang asli, who are skilled at climbing trees. A rattan harvesting trial using orang asli was carried out by FRIM in three 0.4 ha plots at Block D3, compartment 10, of the Sungai Buloh Forest Reserve. Ninety man-days were required for cutting a total of 232 mature rotan manau per hectare (Nur Supardi, unpublished data). On average, a person could harvest, clean and cut between two and seven rattan plants per day. Using this conventional harvesting method, on average one-third of rattan crowns were left hanging in the forest canopy. The prime concern here is loss of the uppermost part of the cane, which can reach up to 50 percent of total cane length. Improved harvesting methods are needed to reduce this loss.

Mechanical harvesting method is an alternative to the conventional method. For this purpose, four harvesting tools (prototypes A-D) were designed, fabricated and tested in FRIM. Since the harvesting sites are not accessible by vehicles, the tools were designed to be simple to operate and portable. The components were sourced off the shelf to keep the costs low. Further improvements to the cutting tools are needed before they can be operationalized (Chong et al., 1999).

4. Rattan Processing Industry in Peninsular Malaysia

At present most of the raw canes are obtained from the jungle where they grow naturally. Once the rattans have been harvested, they are cut into poles - 3 m long for big diameter and 6 m long for smaller diameter canes. The methods used in processing rattans are mostly dictated by the type of rattan species, their initial physical condition and diameter.

The rattans that have been harvested are normally of mixed species, size and quality. Upon arrival at the processing depots, they are immediately sorted according to species and diameter. Large-diameter rattans (> 20 mm) are further sorted into five diameter classes, i.e. :

For quality determination, both large and smaller diameter rattans (< 20 mm) are sorted into two quality classes:

These rattans then undergo boiling in oil or curing process. The trend of rattan processing mills in Peninsular Malaysia is as reported by Razak et al. (1999). Rattan processing commonly refers to any activity involving cooking, drying and processing of rattan into semi-processed products such as peels, cores and skins either manually or by machines.

Boiling or curing: In Malaysia raw canes are boiled in diesel solutions with the aims to:

The immersion period ranges from 10 to 30 minutes at a temperature 60_C-150_C. Immediately after boiling, the canes are either washed with pressurized water or scrubbed with sawdust or rag to remove any remaining dirt and excessive diesel present.

Drying of oil-cured rattans: After the oil curing and cleaning process, the rattans are air-dried in an open ground by leaning them on wooden frames (end-racking). Alternatively, the rattans are bundled and loosely tied at one end and placed in a wigwam-like structure with their upper ends in contact with the ground. This position helps to accelerate the drying process. Small-diameter rattans about 6 m long are hung over a wooden stand or spread over a wooden stacker placed on the ground. The drying period of oil-cured rattans ranges from 10 to 14 days depending on the species and weather conditions. They are considered dry and ready to be transferred to a shed when the stem surfaces turn yellowish, light in weight, and produce a high pitched sound when beaten on a hard surface or object.

Sulphur fumigation: Only good-quality large-diameter and peeled rattans undergo the process of sulphur fumigation whereas the smaller diameter ones are scraped with knives or processed in a splitting machine to remove nodes before further processing. Large-diameter rattans are washed and subsequently smoked overnight with sulphur dioxide (SO2) fumes in an enclosed shed or chamber. Besides providing preservative treatment, this process also produces greater uniformity in colour.

Storage: Rattans that have been sorted and graded are straightened manually or by machine before being tied in bundles of 20-30 canes (large diameter) or in bundles of 30-60 kg (smaller diameter). They are now ready to be stored, marketed or prepared for further processing. Sufficient ventilation needs to be provided to ensure dryness and, at the same time, to reduce the probability of fungal attack.

5. Rattan Furniture Manufacturing Industry

The rattan furniture manufacturing industry in Malaysia still needs much research and development efforts in order to maintain its relevancy to other industries. The industry is dependent on skills and technologies. Rattan furniture manufacturing can be best run as a small and medium-scale industry (single ownership). It is also suitably operated as a community cooperative business since the villagers can become the workforce. To be successful, the industry needs a substantial amount of funding, constant supply of raw material and secured skilled workforce. Generally, rattan furniture manufacturing involves the processes described in the flow chart in Appendix 3.

Looking back at history, it can be said that the rattan furniture manufacturing industry in Malaysia has grown significantly only in the last decade. Before that, the rattan industry was dominated by exports of raw and semi-processed materials to other furniture manufacturing countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore. In 1986, these countries, even with no natural resources, exported US$19.6 million and US$8.5 million worth of rattan furniture, respectively. Malaysia, in the same year, exported only a mere US$2.6 million. Realizing these discrepancies, the Malaysian Government took drastic measures by banning the export of raw canes as of December 1989. Among others, the ban was aimed at encouraging the development of rattan products manufacturing, especially furniture, by ensuring a constant and affordable supply of raw material. The value of rattan furniture exported from Malaysia has increased since then to about US$24.0 million per year.

6. Rattan Marketing and Trading

There are always markets for high-quality rattan furniture either locally or abroad. There are various ways for hunting potential buyers, and the first step is display of products in showrooms. Advanced information technology, virtual displays, and the web can be exploited toward this end. Many international rattan furniture companies have their own web sites and are selling their products through e-commerce. Another effective way of marketing is participation in furniture fairs held by various organizations in the world. Malaysia has been holding her own International Furniture Fair (MIFF) annually since early this decade and the effectiveness of the event is demonstrated by the sharp rise of the furniture exports in the last few years. To assist in marketing the products, the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB), the Trustee Council for Indigenous People (MARA), PKKM and MEXPO were commissioned to collect and disseminate information on markets for Malaysian products. The Ministry of National Rural Development (MNRD) organizes trade exhibitions to create market opportunities for the entrepreneurs.

7. Policy, Social Aspects, Facilities and Institutional Supports for the Promotion of Rattan Industry

As a means of social development in rural areas, full-time cultivation of small-diameter canes is a good option. It is labour-intensive and offers full employment for the family. Downstream processing of rattan canes employs a much larger workforce than rattan growing. The rattan furniture manufacturing industry could provide good sources of income to many people, regardless of age, gender, and educational background.

It would be ideal for the industry to operate within an industrial zone. Basic infrastructure facilities (as shown in Table 3) must be made available, without which production output would be hampered. In cases where facilities are not provided or not in operation, contingency plans should be proposed. For instance, water pumps with adequate filtration systems could provide the water needed by the factory from sources such as rivers and wells. In the case of electrical blackouts, generator sets should be made available as standby units.

In Table 4 the need of human resource development is illustrated. Where the industry is concerned, training of workers is mainly in-house through mentor and apprenticeship systems. Realizing this, the government agencies mentioned below have developed several in-house Research and development training programmes. The Government, through its agencies gives support to the industry in various ways. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) and the MNRD, together with various technical agencies, are directly involved in the development of small-scale enterprises in Peninsular Malaysia.

Financial assistance is extended in the form of loans. Under the programme, certain banks provide interest-free loans of between US$800-20,000 to qualified operators. In addition, government-supported institutions such as the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS), the Agricultural Bank, the Development Bank of Malaysia Limited, the MARA, and the Malaysian Industry Development Bank, also provide financing to small-scale entrepreneurs at below-market interest. Any owner with assets of less than US$100,00 and fewer than 50 full-time employees is eligible to apply.

Table 3. Basic facilities for a rattan furniture manufacturing factory



Contingency plan

1. Water

Local Department of Water Supply

Water pumps

2. Electricity (3-phase)

Tenaga Nasional (National Power)

Generator set

3. Communication

Telekom Malaysia ((Telecommunication service company)

Hand phone

4. Road and easy access for

40 footer containers

Local Authority / Jabatan Kerja Raya

(Public Works Dept)


Training aspects


Follow-up activities

Skill development

Kraftangan Malaysia

In-house training




Research & Development


In-house R&D unit

Technical aid is extended by providing machinery, technical services and training. Under the village industry assistance programme, established in 1986, the MNRD has provided machinery to set up factories and sometimes even the building itself. Various technical agencies such as FRIM, MTIB, and Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM), provide technical assistance in production and basic design. They also organize seminars and training courses in management and production. FRIM has a core of experienced researchers able to train the entrepreneurs in the uses of rattan and bamboo.

8. Environmental, Occupational Safety and Health

Rattan furniture manufacturing does not impose as significant a threat on the environment as that of the wood-based manufacturing industries. Nevertheless, one major problem that needs to be looked into is the high wastage of rattan raw material, especially rattan poles, which often become a burden to the environment through open burning and illegal dumping. Rattan poles are wasted even before the furniture manufacturing process takes place because both ends of the poles supplied are normally unusable owing to fungal attacks and non-uniform diameter. It was reported that in some cases about 15 cm in length of each end must be cut and thrown away. At this stage, the wastage rate could be as high as 10 percent (2.7 m divided by 0.3 m). In terms of money, as much as US$0.20 is wasted from each pole (10 % of US$2.00 - average price of rattan pole). A productive way of managing the waste is by using them as fuel for the steaming chest.

Occupational safety and health problems (hazardous working conditions) would come from the usage of hand tools such as nail drivers, staplers and spray guns. Carelessness in operating the tools might cause serious injuries to the workers. Prolonged inhalation of finishing chemicals from spray guns could cause long-term health problems (especially to the respiratory system). Therefore, the workers must be made to wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) while working.

9. Conclusions

Like any other resource-based industry, the constant supply of raw material is important to ensure the existence of the industry. Over the years, the industry has observed a decline in the quantity and quality of rattans. As a result, the industry is forced to accept inferior quality rattan. Hence, the industry encounters problems in meeting buyers/clients specifications. Cultivation of rattan through proper management is essential to ensure a continuous supply of high-quality raw material. The feasibility of planting rattan (C. manan) under rubber and forest plantation has been studied. Small-scale rubber holders or large rubber estates can adopt the practice. However, growing rattan in plantations or in mixtures still encounters some management problems that need to be solved.

The Government may have to play a part in land acquisition or long-term lease of land to make rattan plantations more attractive. A form of rural development scheme, like the FELDA scheme for rubber planting in Peninsular Malaysia, can be a good model to start off the plantation industry. However, the processing industry would also have to participate in the growing of the resource, if it is to have a future in the country.

Rattan processing mills are also facing some difficulties, and immediate solutions and suggestions are needed to improve production output both in quality and quantity. Stimulating production through a rural village industry development programme is worthwhile. Policy changes are needed, such as granting pioneer status to the new factories to provide financial incentives, i.e. reducing the sales tax on rattan products. A government agency could be responsible for overseeing and monitoring the marketing of raw materials to ensure an adequate supply to local manufacturers. Among the constraints identified against the success of the transfer of technology are capital financing, raw material supply and skilled workforce availability. A medium-sized furniture manufacturing factory requires a sizeable capital investment, and requires financial support from the government in term of soft loans.

Skilled workers such as master craftsmen are not easy to find and keep. The Philippines has been a well-known source for such workers. Their availability and hiring costs would depend much on the "foreigners employment policies" imposed by the Government. However, it is also interesting to note that while semi-mechanization (through pneumatic technology) is slowly making its presence, skilled workers are still a sought-after commodity in this industry.

A product development centre for systematic and coordinated research and development is urgently needed. Greater emphasis should be placed on identifying alternative products and their potential markets. Collaboration with various agencies and higher institutions is essential so that trade and technical information can be collected and centralized for dissemination to the industry. All parties concerned should undertake concerted efforts as this industry demonstrates good prospects for development. The time has come for full-scale involvement of the rural people.


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Appendix 1

List of potentially available rattan species


Vernacular name


Large diameter (>18mm)

Calamus manan

C. tumidus

C. palustris

C. ornatus

C. scipionum

C. peregrinus

C. optimus

C. subinermis

Daemonorops grandis

D. angustifolia

Korthalsia rigida

K. flagellaris

K. laciniosa

Rotan manau

Rotan manau tikus

Rotan manau langkawi

Rotan mantang/dok

Rotan semambu

Rotan jelayan

Rotan sega

Rotan batu

Rotan sendang

Rotan getah

Rotan dahan

Rotan dahan

Rotan dahan / merah

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia/Sabah

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

P. Malaysia



P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia/Sabah

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

P. Malaysia

Small diameter (<18mm)

C. caesius

C. trachycoleus

C. axillaris

C. speciosissimus

C. insignis

C. laevigatus

C. densiflorus

C. diepenhorstii

C. javensis

D. propinqua

D. didymophylla

D. micracantha

Rotan sega

Rotan irit

Rotan sega air

Rotan sega badak

Rotan batu

Rotan tunggal

Rotan kerai

Rotan kerai hitam

Rotan lilin

Rotan jernang

Rotan jernang

Rotan jernang miang

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak


P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia/Sarawak

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

P. Malaysia

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

P. Malaysia/Sabah/Sarawak

Source: Aminuddin Mohamad (1991).

Appendix 2

List of the Malaysian major rattan
species and their use


Local name


Korthalsia spp.

Rotan dahan

Rattan strip/split and furniture components

Calamus ornatus

R. mantang

Rattan peel, core, furniture components and walking sticks



R. giling (R.rilang)

Handicraft items



R. kertong

Handicraft items



R. demuk

The fruits are occasionally eaten (very rare species). Hardly of commercial interest

Daemoncrops calicarpa

R. lumpit

The leaves and stalk are used for making roof & handicraft items

D. leptopus

R. bacap

The leaves are used for making cigarette papers by the aborigines

D. kunstleri

R. bulu landak

The leaves are used for making thatch

D. angustifolia

R. getah

Rattan core and furniture components

D. melanochaetes

R. getah

Rattan core and furniture components

D. grandis

R. sendang

Furniture components

Calamus manan

R. manau

Rattan core, furniture components walking sticks

C. viridispinus

R. kerai gunung

Rattan core, skin and binding materials

C. longipathus

R. kunyung

The leaves are used for making cigarette papers by the aborigines

C. javensis

R. lilin (R.mendon)

Binding materials

C. tumidus

R. manau tikus

Rattan core, furniture components and walking sticks

C. exilis

R. paku

Binding materials

C. caesius

R. sega

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft

C. axillaris

R. sega air

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft

C. apeciosissimus

R. sega badak

(R. semut)

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft

C. scipionum

R. semambu

Furniture components and walking sticks

C. paspalanthus

R. sirikis

The fruits are edible

C. didymophylla

R. jernang

Rattan strip/split rattan, fruits are a source of dragon's blood


C. propinqua

R. jernang

Rattan strip/split rattan and the fruits are a source of dragon's blood (dye)

C. micracantha

R. jernang

Rattan strip/split rattan and the fruits are a source of dragon's blood (dye)

C. castaneus

R. cucor

The leaves are use for making roof and the seeds can be

used for medical purposes

C. lobbianus

R. cucor kelabu

The seeds is edible

C. erinaceus

R. bakau

Rattan core, skin and rattan strip/split

C. insignis

R. batu

Rattan core, skin and handicraft items

C. ornatus

R. dok

Furniture components

C. perakensis

var. perakensis

R. duduk

Walking sticks

C. luridus

R. kerai

Rattan core and handicraft items

C. viridispinus

R. kerai gunung

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft

C. perakensis

var. crassus

R. tekok gunung

Walking sticks

C. laevigatus

R. tunggal

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft items

C. balingensis

R. tanah

Rattan core, skin, furniture components and handicraft items

Source: Compiled by Razak bin Wahab, Mohd. Tamizi bin Mustafa and Arshad Omar (1998). Based on the primary source (Dransfield, 1979).

Appendix 3

Manufacturing Methods


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