Tue, 06 Mar 2001

Broom business swept away by success

PURBALINGGA, Central Java (JP): Wirmada Prapanca did not imagine four years ago that his job making brooms from coconut palm midribs would bring him such success, with his products being exported to Japan and Singapore.

The 35-year-old from Karangbanjar villager, Kutasari district, Purbalingga regency, sells the brooms for from Rp 7,000 to Rp 10,000 each to the exporters.

"I now produce 20 kinds of brooms, such as those for sweeping the floor, bedroom brooms, snow shoveling brooms, orchid nursery brooms and others," Wirmada said in his workshop.

Other materials used to make the brooms include the sheaves and stalks from wheat and glagah, a type of mountain grass.

"But most of my exported brooms are made from coconut palms," said Wirmada.

Although he may be too modest to say so, he could also be said to be taking a stand on recycling -- or how to make the best of discarded material.

Most of his material for coconut-palm brooms, which remain the bulk of his business, comes from the hundreds of cottage industries that produce ketupat, the palm fronds which are woven into pouches to make steamed rice cakes during the post-fasting month Idul Fitri holiday.

The central rib is cut away and not used. Factories in the area used to throw away the material, but now Wirmada is a happy customer.

He buys the ribs from them every day for Rp 800 per bundle.

"They come to my place to sell their ribs and we, of course, are glad to buy them all," Wirmada said.

"We usually use three bundles of ribs for an orchid broom and one of my workers can produce 20 brooms per day."

There are 60 workers in his home industry in Purbalingga.

He said it was not too difficult to make the orchid broom.

The ribs need to be scraped by knife until thin enough, then bound with twine. A piece of bamboo is added for the handle.

The production cost, including paying workers, is Rp 5,000, with him making a profit from sales to retailers of about Rp 2,000 to Rp 5,000.

"I don't know how much our business partner sells my brooms for. But I saw in Jakarta that some of the shops were selling them for Rp 22,000 to Rp 25,000," Wirmada said. (Agus Maryono)