Members of the Lao Furniture Association are worried about a slowdown in the furniture and woodcarving business because of a shortage in the supply of raw materials.
Chinese visitors examine handmade Lao furniture at the Made in Laos exhibition last weekend in Vientiane.
“The difficulty for furniture producers currently is a short supply of timber, because so far we have not received a quota of wood from the government,” a Board Member of the Lao Furniture Association, Ms Chantai Thammavong, said at the Made in Laos fair in Vientiane on Wednesday.
“Currently we are buying wood from timber shops or warehouses. This has made production quite costly for us. Even the waste wood, we also have to buy; it is not free,” said Ms Chantai, who is also a furniture producer.
“A lot of the products we make are made from left over or waste wood,” she said. The industry's main market is China and at the moment there is unlimited demand.
Vanhna Parquet & Furnitur e Imp-Exp Co Ltd Managing Director, Ms Vanhna Nanthaphone, said her parquet products are also made of waste wood and are heavily in demand from foreigners.
“There is especially a large demand from Chinese buyers, who want to buy 4 to 5 containers of parquet, but we cannot produce it in such quantities because of the shortage of wood.”
“Waste wood is not costly and is otherwise used as firewood. However, once it is processed into parquet it is worth quite a lot and is very popular as a form of interior decor. It now costs around 200,000 to 300,000 kip per square metre,” Ms Vanhna said.
Khamthanaphone Wooden Art Co Ltd Director, Mr Vilath Pan yalath, said his products are also made of waste wood, and he sells elaborately carved timber carvings of animals, gods, and other natural or spiritual things. Currently he employs more than 200 people and still needs more, because “now we have large orders from both local and Chinese customers and we cannot keep pace with demand.”
He said his business was also facing a timber shortage and he hoped the issue could be resolved. “I am pleased to be an association member because I hope to get enough wood to supply my processing plant.”
Association President Mr Khamphay Somsana recently told members not to be concerned about the current shortage of supply because it had submitted a proposal to the government requesting a reliable supply of timber. The state sector since has agreed to provide the wood necessary for full scale production at factories.
The association signed a business cooperation agreement with a Chinese furniture import group in October. The agreement will see the production of furniture worth up to 2.6 trillion kip (US$333 million) per year for supply to the Chinese market over the next 20 years.
Ms Chantai said “Once we get the quota of wood from the government directly, production costs will be lower, as the directly sourced wood will be cheaper than what we are currently paying at timber shops or warehouses. The product quality will also improve and our profits will increase because we will be using what would otherwise go to waste.”