The latest figures show that bamboo and rattan trade is on the rise.
- Bamboo and rattan exports reached USD 3.4 billion in 2019.
- New trade codes allow better visibility for bamboo and rattan products.
- China remains the largest exporter of bamboo products, and Indonesia for rattan products.
- The USA and Europe are becoming bigger players in international bamboo and rattan trade.
In its most recent trade report, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) breaks down international trade of bamboo and rattan products.
According to data from the UN Comrade database, in 2019, exports of bamboo and rattan commodities reached USD 3.4 billion. This is an increase of 5% on 2018, and an apparently dramatic increase from the years leading up to 2017, due to more accurate reporting. (Read more on this below.)
Bamboo products made up the bulk of overall trade: USD 3.054 billion-worth of bamboo products were exported in 2021. The Asia-Pacific remained the largest exporter for bamboo products. In particular, China exports accounted for 67% of the global total: the country exported more than USD 2 billion bamboo products in 2019.
The European Union and North America are becoming increasingly important traders of bamboo and rattan products. These two regions together imported more than 60% of all traded bamboo and rattan goods. The European Union is also becoming a larger producer of bamboo products, particularly tableware, kitchenware and panels for construction: in 2019, the region sold USD 289 million-worth of bamboo goods.
Unsurprisingly, given its history of rattan production and use, Indonesia remains the largest exporter of rattan products. In 2019, the country exported USD 37 million-worth of rattan products: 38% of the world total.
Why the bump in trade?
The apparent growth in international bamboo and rattan trade is due to new trading codes. The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding Systems (HS) codes are used by more than 200 countries and economies to classify internationally traded products. Historically, there has been a lack of specific HS codes to describe non-timber forest products like bamboo and rattan. However, with cooperation from INBAR, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and China’s General Administration of Customs, a number of new codes have been approved, most recently in 2017.
Currently, there are 24 HS codes describing a broad range of commonly traded bamboo and rattan commodities, such as bamboo charcoal, bamboo pulp and paper-based articles, bamboo flooring panels, and rattan basketwork and furniture. This new ability to classify products has resulted in a significant ‘increase’ in the total global trade of bamboo and rattan commodities since 2018.
Importantly, it is likely that exports still make up a very small portion of overall bamboo and rattan trade. In 2019, the China Bamboo Industry Association estimated that the total output value of the bamboo industry was as high as CNY 300 billion (USD 46 billion), which means exports accounted for only 5% of the total trade. This is likely to be even more true of countries which do not have highly developed bamboo value chains.
With their abundant spread across the tropics and subtropics, and their diverse uses, bamboo and rattan are already a critical source of fibre, fuel and income for millions of people. According to Dr. Wu JunQi, a trade specialist at INBAR, “A better understanding of bamboo and rattan trade is critical to raising awareness about these plants, and providing appropriate support to developing products. This latest report is great news for the visibility of bamboo and rattan goods, and the growth of the sector.”
Established in 1997, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is an intergovernmental development organisation that promotes environmentally sustainable development using bamboo and rattan. It is currently made up of 48 Member States.
As the Common Fund for Commodities’ International Commodity Body for bamboo and rattan, INBAR collates and analyses data about international bamboo and rattan trade. Previous reports can be accessed on the INBAR Resources Centre. INBAR also maintains a trade database on bamboo and rattan products.
(Featured image: A woman stacking rattan furniture in Cirebon, Indonesia. Credit: Bastian AS.)