USD 60 billion – the total value of trade in bamboo and rattan?

INBAR has just released an analysis of the 2012 international trade figures of bamboo and rattan products. This is an important report with an in-depth review of the international import and export of bamboo and rattan, recorded in the United Nations Comtrade database. INBAR is the International Commodity Body for bamboo and rattan, and therefore it monitors the international trade.

The report concludes that in 2012 the international trade in bamboo and rattan amounted to USD 1.9 billion. However, these figures are questionable, for the following reasons:

  • There is a limited number of so-called HS codes that can be used to describe products that are exported or imported. More HS Codes for bamboo and rattan have recently been approved by the World Customs Organisation, but these new codes will not come into operation until 2017
  • Some countries still include bamboo and rattan products in wood products when they report their trade, as they do not use the HS codes effectively. This could be due to a lack of understanding or recognition of bamboo and rattan products
  • Not all countries register their trade figures consistently and accurately. This can be a result of lack of awareness, or the need for training of those responsible for reporting the trade figures.

The recorded international trade of bamboo and rattan products in 2012 was nearly USD 2 billion, and the predictions for 2015 amount to USD 2.5 billion, but the shortcomings that I have just listed mean that the real figure could be much more.

Even if we assume that the figure for international trade is double what we have recoded, cross-border import and export is dwarfed by the domestic market, and the total value for trade of bamboo and rattan globally is therefore a lot more than the international trade figures would suggest.   Let me explain.

We have a fairly good idea of the domestic trade in China, as the State Forestry Administration of China has a bamboo development plan. According to the official statistics, the national production value of bamboo industry increased to USD 19.5 billion in 2012 from USD 13 billion in 2010, with an annual grow of 16%. Using the same figure of growth for the following years, the production value of bamboo industry of China in 2015 can be expected to be as high as USD 36billion.

In a bamboo handicrafts factory in Anji County, Zhejiang Province

In a bamboo handicrafts factory in Anji County, Zhejiang Province



The other main bamboo producer in Asia is India. In 2011, the Forest Service of India reported a total cover of bamboo forests in India of nearly 14 million Hectares, which is more than double the 6.7 million Hectares of bamboo reported by the State Forestry Administration of China in 2013. Yet, despite the fact that there is such a large amount of bamboo available in India, the potential size of bamboo industry of India in 2015 is estimated as USD 4.35 billion in a recent report by Aniket Baksy.

This must be an underestimate, but there are no reliable up-to-date statistics for bamboo trade in India, maybe due to the fact that in many States bamboo is simply included in forest and timber statistics. I know that the bamboo industry in India is not as developed as the bamboo industry in China, but I cannot believe that the production is only one-tenth of what China produces.


Using the figures above, the total domestic market of China and India, the two most important traditional bamboo producers in Asia, and arguably in the world, would amount to at least USD 40 billion by 2015, but it is presumably more.

Although we have little or no information, it is very likely that a domestic market also exists in other traditional bamboo producing countries in Asia, like Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. There must also be a local market in Brazil and Mexico in Latin America, and in some African countries with significant bamboo resources such as Ethiopia and RDC.

We have no real figures, but using the trade distribution in the international market in 2012, the domestic market of bamboo products in the major producing countries, excluding China and India, can be estimated to be at least USD 5.5 billion in 2012. This is again a gross under-estimate as we have no statistics for DRC, and Brazil does not record its trade in bamboo. Yet, these countries both have significant bamboo resources, simply by virtue of the size of the country.

If we use the figure of USD 5.5 billion as the baseline, and we apply the same 16% growth for other countries as experienced in China during the past years, there will be an additional USD 9 billion by 2015.  This would lead to a combined total value of domestic trade in bamboo products of nearly USD 50 billion, which is more than ten times the value of the recorded international trade.

Bamboo sculpture from the Philippines.  Photo by Prof Zhu Zhao Hua, INBAR

Bamboo sculpture from the Philippines. Photo by Prof Zhu Zhao Hua, INBAR

The area of natural rattan distribution is much smaller than the natural cover of bamboos. Using the percentages of bamboo and rattan products in international trade, an amount of USD 6.2 billion can be estimated for the domestic market for rattan products in the major rattan producing countries in 2012. As the general view holds that rattan trade is not expanding very much, or maybe even contracting, we can assume the same figure of USD 6.2 billion for 2015.

Using these estimates above, the global trade of bamboo and rattan products in 2015 can be considered to have a value in the order of USD 60 billion. But, as I said earlier, these figures are most likely still gross under-estimates, and INBAR will try to get better information directly from the countries during the coming years. I cannot make any founded suggestions about the real figures, but the real value of global trade in bamboo and rattan products must be more than USD 60 billion. This is serious business!


14 thoughts on “USD 60 billion – the total value of trade in bamboo and rattan?

    • Dear Santiago
      I am san win of University of Forestry, Ministry of natural resources and environment, Myanmar. I have been published manual on bamboo propagation, planting and harvesting in local language. I wish you to kindly inform me of bamboo taxonomy guide lines for me.


      Prof San Win

  1. Hi Hans,

    thanks for this very interesting analysis.

    I am currently working on bamboo sector development in Huaphan Province, Laos (project run by GRET – French Ngo).

    Interesting and useful has been the formulation by the Province of a Provincial Bamboo Sector Development Strategy 2011-2015, which helped local stakeholders (government, villagers and private sector) to develop 4 promising bamboo value chains, based on sustainable use of natural forests mainly. The four bamboo value chains are: fresh shoots for domestic market, dried shoots for Vietnamese market, handicraft for domestic and tourism, slats & sticks for Vietnamese market. Eventhough we are far below China, India…, we recorded last year a total cash income of 370 000 USD generated and received by 2300 households in 60 villages (160 USD / household, a significant complementary cash income).

    Based on lessons learned and achievements so far (in terms of forest management, producer organization, business models…), we are currently helping the Province stakeholders to define the Provincial Bamboo Strategy 2016-2020.

    In doing that, we would need to update the market & trade context in the region. Would you have updated ‘official’ data on Lao bamboo sector (and Vietnam as well) that could help ?

    Warm regards


      • Dear Hans,
        Thanks a lot for sharing your views, an honest personal perspective is always very precious!
        I am working with a cross-organizational team lead by UNDP on a Deforestation-Free Jurisdictions project for Vietnam and I’m cruelly missing reliable data on bamboo market size (both world 2017 and any trends for Vietnam). It would be great if you could share these.
        thanks in advance!

      • Dear Alina. Please send a message to hfriederich (at), so I can forward to my colleagues. We have 2017 information but difficult to share on this platform. Best regards. Hans

  2. Dr Hans,
    I follow you on twitter and also read your blog. I would be highly obliged if you could let me know how can bamboo help in climate mitigation and why should bamboo be preferred over other plants and how does it compare with them.
    best regards

  3. Dear Hansfriederich,
    I come from Laos and study forestry economics in Beijing, China.I am researching on Bamboo utilization for economic gains in Laos.Do you have any bamboo data or information on Laos?
    Thank you,

  4. Dear Dr Hans,
    Bambu regards to you,
    I am Yomi Ige, Agronomist and CEO forBDM- Bamboo Development Network, Nigeria.
    Nigeria has one of the greatest potentials to be a huge great bamboo growing and producer country in the world, and my NGO has been at the forefront to position the country as such, we need backing from INBAR in sequencing this development process as it is designed as a private sector driven process since governance has actually distortef towards such innovations in this part of the world. INBAR, Ghana, was here for our WBD celebrations and gave a good account of possibilities, but I want to visit INBAR, Beijin for a closer engagement.
    Your support will be highly appreciated, Humble regards from our Chaiman, Board of Trustees,dist. Senator Lanre Tejuoso
    I will be contacting you with our plans in a short while

  5. Dear Dr Hans,
    I am Walo Research Scholar from Nagaland University,India. I am doing research in economic analysis of bamboo products in Nagaland which is in North eastern part of India. Do you have data and information about North east part of India and specifically Nagaland related to Bamboo economy

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