Lao businesses will find sourcing rattan difficult in the near future with declining supplies around the country so proper policy support from the government is needed, an official advised.
The advice was delivered at a workshop attended by President of the Lao Handicrafts Association, Mr Hansana Sisane and Secretary General of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms Sengdavone Bangonesengdet.
The meeting heard the decline was a result of local businesses still lacking sustainable collection techniques for rattan with young plants being harvested before mature ones.
“Proper policy support from the government for sustainable rattan conservation is needed to ensure there are enough supplies into the future,” Mr Hansana said.
According to the Lao Handicrafts Association, in the last 10 years rattan in forests has decreased 50 percent across the country including the key provinces of Huaphan and Borikhamxay.
He said the government was gradually improving rattan product promotion and policies to assist sustainable conservation assurance as this was a matter of urgency especially for the benefit of small producers and village handicraft associations.
Mr Hansana said the government was promoting the planting of rattan at six villages in Borikhan district, Borikhamxay province but there was no advice regarding harvesting techniques.
In the meantime, the Lao Handicrafts Association has had plans in place for several years to promote rattan, he added.
Rattan is a naturally renewable palm that has multiple uses, such as for furniture, handicrafts and building materials. However, the way rattan is harvested and processed needs to improve in order to secure the supply in the long term, he added.
Mr Hansana also detailed the rattan and bamboo project under the Lao Handicrafts Association supported by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The project's objective is to secure credible forest certification, establish a more sustainable rattan production supply chain, and develop sustainable financing for small and medium sized enterprises to invest in it.
According to the project, the WWF is developing forest management plans with communities, training pre-processors and traders on clean production, building business links, and promoting Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Fair Trade certification of forests and their products.
As part of this project, communities and companies are working with WWF to implement a viable and sustainable forest management model. This means that villages can earn income from the harvesting, splitting and weaving of rattan for sale on international markets.
Some successes have already emerged from the project. Since 2008, over 5,500 ha of forest are now FSC certified and 28 villages in three provinces have directly benefitted from the sale of rattan products.