Rattan: A Versatile and Coveted Raw Material

Rattan makes beautifully neutral coloured woven furniture that exudes tropical charm. Mostly seen in tropical resorts, it is now a global trend and many furniture manufacturers are incorporating rattan into their seasonal collections. 

What is Rattan?

But, what is Rattan and where does it come from? It is found within South and Southeast Asia and is used in local handicrafts and furniture. It is a type of pliable palm vine that is similar to bamboo in versatility and strength.

Many rural people in South and Southeast Asia farm and harvest Rattan for local handicrafts and wicker furniture. A majority of the world’s rattan can be found in Indonesia, with the rest being supplied from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. 

Rattan grows in tropical rainforests, however, due to deforestation rattan populations have decreased. 

Harvesting and Processing 

Rattan is fairly easy to harvest compared to timber as it freely grows in the jungle making it an attractive resource for furniture manufacturing. It also grows faster than trees and is light, making transport easy.

The optimal conditions for rattan can be found in hilly tropical rainforests, and the most suitable environment for growth is under some tree cover. Secondary forests, fruit orchards, tree plantations and rubber plantations provide the ideal conditions for rattan to thrive.

Rattan canes are cut and then partially processed by sun-drying and smoking with sulphur, larger canes are usually boiled in oil to make them resistant to insects.

The harvesting of rattan may provide a better alternative to timber logging in areas where forests are scarce and even help in curbing deforestation. It is the way of life for many rural folks who depend on harvesting rattan and crafting wicker items. 

Rattan uses and products

Rattan is light, durable, and pliable making it a versatile plant-based raw material. It can be crafted into many things and has multiple uses.

The inner core and the shoot of the rattan plant can be used for food. Many of the rural Asian populations consume it as part of their diet. The most famous use for rattan would be for wicker furniture, the rattan can be weaved to form certain parts of the furniture as well as certain interior accessories. 

Rattan is also used for shelter as it is used to build houses within rural communities throughout Asia. Many of these rural rattan crafters use it to create local handicrafts ranging from decorative items to practical wears.

The Rattan Export Industry

The rattan trade industry is growing at US$4 billion per year. Many villages in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia are heavily reliant on the rattan trade. Rattan sales makeup 50% of their income and play a major role in alleviating poverty within this population.

The skin of the rattan cane is peeled and used for weaving, and the core of the rattan cane is used for wicker furniture.

Rattan as a Trend 

Rattan has a neutral light tan colour which can easily complement any living space. Widely used for a tropical modern aesthetic, rattan/wicker furniture and accessories add a hint of warmth and welcome, this is why you can find it in many tropical resorts throughout the globe.

Many households in Asia have at least one rattan/wicker item as it is a staple of the culture and lifestyle of those countries. Wicker furniture fast became a trend in the west as everyone wanted a piece of paradise in their homes.

Due to the durability and strength of rattan, it has proven to be an ideal material for outdoor furniture. Its natural tropical look can transform any outdoor spot into a fun, warm, and enjoyable space. Especially during the summer days, adding a rattan furniture set will have you set for the warm season.

With rattan being a major trend that is here to stay, furniture manufacturers should consider adding wicker type designs into their summer collections. In buying rattan as a raw material or wicker furniture you will be supporting the livelihoods of many rural rattan craftsman and craftswomen. This will help preserve the rattan wicker heritage and even help reduce deforestation.

Rattan can be farmed and harvested sustainably and is beneficial to the rainforests and rural farmers and craftspeople of South and Southeast Asia. Supporting their livelihoods will make sure that rattan and wicker furniture will not die out and that the craft will persevere for future generations to come. 

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