A letter to our customers about the raffia supply situation early 2022
this is an except of a March 2022 newsletter to our raffia customers:
Thanks for allowing me into your inbox with an update, and some perspective. Sometimes writing it all out is just what is needed.
For those interested to know more - we were unable to secure any of what I'd consider premium grades of raffia in our shipment currently en route to Brisbane (due early March). This was due to several factors, but ultimately came down to timing and availability.
Raffia harvesting and sorting are seasonal activities, and the Madagascan supply is limited (there's only ever so much of each grade for export and often none) - so we have to work with what we can get around the time we need it - simple as that. We also have to juggle the financial commitment of purchasing a container load of raffia upfront (and waiting three months for it to get here) with other cashflow demands, and having the warehouse capacity to store it.
That's my business there.
So it's important for me to announce that the raffia we have coming next month will not be the longest, and it won't be the best we've had, but it won't necessarily be any cheaper, either.
This leads me into a broader discussion about raffia demand and supply that I am shy to raise, but should. I am well aware that since we began importing raffia we have made it transparent to our audience that grades of raffia do exist - and this in turn has helped educate the local Australian market on nuances in quality (back when I was buying locally from other Australian importers there was only 'raffia' so I wonder if that has changed!).
Whilst it was my intention that this would allow customers to be more discerning, it's important to remember that we must also be resourceful and adaptive. Managing expectations around quality, supply and pricing is something I must to do as a business owner working with the constraints of these times.
I expect there will be disappointment that we do not have 'the best' raffia, but I also hope our clientele will understand this is not due to a lack of concern over quality on our part. In the coming months, we'll have less choice on offer but this is temporary. Who knows - this raffia might be amazing!
As silly as it sounds, I just don't want this to be taken personally by any of our customers.
The value of natural raffia has been rising sharply in the past couple of years; that plus the blowout in global freight, has seen prices almost double. There's consumer demand - more people, more fashion, more weavers weaving etc etc!
Yet the big picture requires us to de-centre ourselves (and our craft projects for a moment) and be mindful that Madagascar is facing some complex political and social challenges on top of drought, famine and now flooding in the South.
Agriculture and climate change-induced deforestation also pose a longterm threat to raffia biomass. And after all let's not forget the sheer labour effort involved the process of getting raffia from harvest to export - in a pandemic!