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Rattan growth pains

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A woman paints a rattan chair at a factory in Phnom Penh yesterday. The industry faces a shortage of skilled labour, according to some insiders. Photo by: SRENG MENG SRUN

RATTAN furniture makers in the Kingdom have touted the industry’s potential, but say they still lack the resources needed to keep pace with worldwide demand.

“So our products are distributed only locally, and not to foreign markets,” said Lip Cheang, founder of the Rattan Association of Cambodia and owner of Kampuchea Samay Thmey rattan factory in Kandal province.

In addition to the hotels and restaurants that buy rattan furniture, which is made from a type of palm plant, demand is being seen in overseas markets as well, he said. However, a number of obstacles prevent the industry from meeting that demand.

Most significantly, local craftsmen lack the capital and skilled workers necessary to expand their businesses, Lip Cheang said. The dearth of skilled workers is especially challenging as rattan furniture is made largely by hand and not by machine.

Also, the high cost of raw materials and logistics push up the price of Cambodia’s rattan furniture, and therefore make it less competitive against foreign products, he said.

Still, Lip Cheang has seen enough growth over his 20 years in the business to warrant building his factory in Kandal province’s Muk Kampul district. The factory employs 58 workers, produces about 20 sets of rattan products a day and earns near US$10,000 a month, he said.

Lip Cheang said the Rattan Association of Cambodia hopes to train farmers in rattan furniture making with the help of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The initiative would both create jobs and allow local products to compete in international markets, he said.

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