Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post,
Many batik makers in Jambi city feel they have been disadvantaged by Javanese producers who make imitations of local batik motifs and sell them for less than the originals.
Local batik producer Ida Maryanti said producers in Java had copied many Jambi batik designs and mass-produced them.
"We don't know what else we can do," Ida said recently.
Ida and a number of other batik makers in Jambi city could not reduce their sale prices because they had to buy materials (including silk cloth, wax and dyes) from Java, which increased their production costs, Ida said.
"Batik craftsmen are only skilled at creating batik but not at marketing," she said.
Ida said batik producers in Jambi city could only afford to buy raw materials in small amounts, which increased their production costs. Entrepreneurs in batik production centers in Java, she said, could afford to buy materials in bulk, and sell at cheaper prices.
She also said wages could have an impact on sale prices. Batik makers in Jambi city earn between Rp 3,000 (about 30 US cents) and Rp 7,000 per meter, while those in batik production centers in Java usually earn less.
Consequently, Jambi batik costs more. A hand-drawn batik costs around Rp 200,000 per meter, whereas a printed one sells for Rp 100,000 per meter (both on silk cloth).
Ida employs three workers, but now has less orders due to the influx of Javanese batik in the market.
A piece of hand-drawn batik measuring 2.5 meters long and 115 cm wide takes two days to finish, whereas a printed one takes much less time, Ida said.
Ida now uses a different approach by selling ready-made batik clothes and products. She sells cotton batik dresses for around Rp 150,000 and a silk ones for Rp 350,000.
"I only make a 10 percent profit from the sale," she said.
Ida uses five rolls of cloth a month, with each roll containing 46 meters of fabric 115 cm wide, and costing around Rp 96,000 (for cotton).
Other materials include 100 kg of wax (Rp 16,000 per kg) and 10 kg of dyes (priced between Rp 15,000 and Rp 80,000 per kg).
To attract buyers, Ida not only produces Jambiyang batik motifs such as Kapal Sanggat and Durian Pecah, but also her own new designs such as Panah Kubu, Resam and Encong Kerinci.
Jambi Industrial and Trade office head Hasan Basri said Jambi's batik industry had been hard-hit by imitations. In response to this problem his office had registered as many as 95 traditional batik motifs with the intellectual property rights office. So far, it has approved 19 motifs while the remainder are still in the progress.
In relation to the improvement of product quality, Hasan said, some 400 batik makers in Jambi city had been attending classes to improve their skills, from drawing to dyeing, and also in business management.
Batik entrepreneurs also received loan assistance from state-owned companies such as Pertamina, each getting between Rp 5 million and Rp 50 million, with an interest rate of 6 percent and to be repaid in installments over three years.
"We hope batik entrepreneurs can manage their businesses better, without feeling too worried about capital," he said.
He said his office would help batik makers to promote their products outside the province at particular events, such as the Cultural Product Exhibition.