The antiques trade could soon fall victim to the global rattan shortage prompted by an Indonesian export ban.
Woven rattan is a key component of many
pieces of Regency, Victorian and Edwardian seating furniture, and
new supplies of cane are vital to restorers.
Indonesia is the world's largest producer of
rattan, with more than a million rattan cutters supplying about 80%
of the raw material to the global market. However, exports of
finished rattan products have fallen markedly in recent years
following competition from manufacturers in the Far East.
While supplies of rattan - the name given to
roughly 600 species of vine-like palms native
to tropical regions - have suffered through deforestation, the
current shortage reflects a decision by the Trade Ministry of
Indonesia to ban the export of raw and semi-processed rattan with
the intention of reviving local manufacturing.
The embargo, introduced on January 1, 2012,
as part of a controversial five-year plan, seeks to encourage and
increase both the production and the consumption of home-produced
An unforeseen consequence of the ban is that
users of relatively small quantities of rattan cane, including
restorers of antique furniture and craft specialists, have been
affected alongside big business.
Russell Theaker of The Cane and Rush
Workshop in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, told ATG he was
facing rocketing prices and a distinct shortage of working
materials (as stockpiles have dwindled, some widths of rattan are
very hard to come by). Man-made substitutes are available but not
suitable for antique furniture.
With no prospect of this situation
improving, Mr Theaker has launched an online petition in the hope
of winning the restoration trade an exemption from a prolonged
"Our aim is to persuade Parliament to
encourage the Indonesian government to consider issuing special
licences to established companies currently importing rattan
products for use solely within the restoration trade in order that
we may continue our important heritage craft," he said.