Sat, 05 Mar 2005

Firewood seller all fired up

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post/Purwokerto

As people continue to complain about the increase in fuel prices and a kerosene scarcity in Purwokerto, firewood sellers see the twin problems as blessings in disguise.

One firewood seller, Sardiono, was in good spirits as he chopped logs into firewood at his home in Sokaraja Lor hamlet, Sokaraja district, Banyumas regency.

The 45-year-old said his business in the Central Java town of Purwokerto had improved over the last month.

"Thank God, poor people like me can profit even at difficult times like now. Many people have been ordering firewood from me of late," he said smiling as he wiped the perspiration from his face.

He said people were turning to firewood due to a kerosene scarcity.

"It's not only the poor people who are using firewood but also middle class people who can't find kerosene anymore," he explained.

He said the switch to firewood had started when the government raised the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

"At that time, though, not many people switched to firewood. But now, following the fuel price increase and with kerosene getting hard to find, the demand for firewood has become very high," Sardiono said.

Previously, his firewood was often left piling up inside his house. "Only once in a while would there be an order for firewood, mostly from traditional roofers," he said.

Previously, Sardiono used to sell a cubic meter of wood for Rp 130,000 (US$14.45), and would only sell around five cubic meters of firewood per month.

Now, he is selling firewood in smaller bundles at Rp 10,000 per bundle. He can make 20 bundles of firewood out of one cubic meter of wood.

"I'm so glad," Sardiono said. "Now I can sell between 50 and 70 bundles of firewood per day."

However, he said he did not mean to imply that he was happy with the fuel price hike or kerosene scarcity.

"Things like this happen. I just take them in my stride. Of course, it would be better if kerosene was easy to find and my firewood sold well too," he said.