Tue, 11 Mar 2003

Govt pledges to help Pekalongan batik, sarong producers

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The ministry of industry and trade pledged to help the ailing batik (traditional Javanese shirt) and sarong producers in Pekalongan, Central Java province, to seek new domestic markets in an attempt to keep their businesses alive.

The move was part of efforts to market some one million batik and sarong products piled up in Pekalongan after the Tanah Abang market in Jakarta was destroyed by fire last month. Tanah Abang was the main domestic market for batik and sarong from Pekalongan.

Rifana Erni, director general of domestic trade affairs at the ministry said on Monday that her office would facilitate some meetings between producers from Pekalongan and traders from several provinces in the country.

"We will help them to seek new local markets, such as Medan, and other cities in Sumatra," Erni said.

She said that the first meeting was expected to take place in Medan next month.

The leading newspaper here, Kompas daily reported on Monday that the batik and sarong manufacturing industry, which employs thousands of workers, was in limbo after the Oct. 12 Bali terror attacks and the fire which destroyed the Tanah Abang market. The popular resort island of Bali is also a huge market for the Pekalongan sarongs because they are popular among foreign tourists who enjoy purchasing ethnic knicknacks. Tourism in Bali is significantly down since the terrorist attacks there.

But an official at the ministry said that the move to help the Pekalongan batik and sarong producers was not in response to the Kompas report, saying that Minister of Industry and Trade Rini M. Soewandi had already visited the Pekalongan area immediately after the Tanah Abang market was destroyed.

The official added that in addition to helping open market access in Sumatra, the ministry would also help the Pekalongan producers to market their products in Makassar, South Sulawesi province.

The Tanah Abang market has also been the main gateway for the export of the Pekalongan's batik and sarong products to the Middle East, Africa and some Asian countries.

The fire destroyed more than 2,420 kiosks out of a total of 7,594 kiosks in the four-story market covering six blocks. Only shops in block B and F were completely unaffected by the blaze.

Rini has sent a letter to the Jakarta administration and city- owned market operator PD Pasar Jaya to quickly rebuild the market.

The ministry would also host discussions with textile associations and banks to seek solutions to the problems faced by the Pekalongan producers.

Nadifianto, a sarong maker from Pekalongan said that there were some 18 million sarongs piled up in the Central Java city.

"We are now facing a very difficult condition, we are unable to move our products as there is no demand," Nadifianto told The Post.

"We're not asking for much from the government, we only want their help to find us new markets," he said, adding that action must be immediately taken or many producers would go bankrupt.

Pekalongan has some 5,000 weaving machines, with the total number of direct workers at 10,000.

Nadifianto welcomed the government's move to facilitate the planned meeting with traders from Sumatra and other areas.