Rhapis Excelsa East Java / Indonesia

Rhapis Excelsa is a palm species which is cultivated by many farmers in several villages in East Java mainly in the districts of: Lumajang/Jember and Kediri.

This particular Rhapis excelsa variety is specific (indigenous) for the region. Local farmer communities in the area have for many years extensively propagated this palm variety. The cultivation of this palm variety in back yard gardens and idle village lands, has long been an additional source of income for the rural households in the area. There is a local market for these plants which are used in landscaping projects in bigger cities (Surabaya Bali) and therefore, the cultivation of these plants brings always additional income to the farmers.


Picture above: nicely shaped potted Rhapis excelsa palm ready for export.

Ten years ago, the company PT PalmHijauLestari (Indonesian company) started to introduce the Rhapis excelsa variety of East Java as a potted ornamental plant for interior decoration purposes in The Netherlands / EU market. Since then, the plant has gained much recognition as a very suitable indoor decoration item.

The company PT PalmHijauLestari in Indonesia has from then facilitated the sustainable development of the Rhapis excelsa cultivation in the rural villages in Eastern Java, to create a steady production of high quality ornamental plants for export to The Netherlands.

These efforts have resulted in the establishment of several nurseries at village level, where high quality ornamental plants are cultivated for the export market.

potted Rhapis Excelsa plant; height 1.25m, export quality

Through many years of experience, the company PT PHL has built extensive knowledge of the trade of this ornamental plant species. The Rhapis Excelsa variety of East Java is especially suitable as a hardy, indoor ornamental, used for interior decoration purposes in Western countries (The Netherlands/Europe). The plant has special value regarding it’s effects on indoor air quality, and is ranked high in a list of plants (Bill Wolverton, NASA research), which are able to produce clean air and therewith contribute to a healthy working environment in office buildings.

Characteristics of the cultivation:

Plants are still cultivated in an extensive way. Plants are grown in backyard gardens in the villages and during the years form dense clusters of mother stock, from which regularly (every 4 – 5 months) emerge young shoots which can be sold and used as starter plants for the ornamental plant cultivation. Most established mother plant stock of these plants can be found in the villages in Kediri / Ngadiluwih sub district and Lumajang / Jember district in East Java. No seed production is known of this palm variety. Every 4 to 5 months, young shoots are collected from the mother plant population, which are cultivated to become potted ornamental plants. Local farmers are involved to produce and propagate young plants which are used for cultivation of high quality ornamental plants. With a production capacity of one 40 feet reefer container (1.250 potted plants, size 1.20m to 1.50m) monthly, approximately 250 small farmers can earn a decent living by producing young plants.

THE CHALLENGE:  the challenge is how to produce 100% good quality potted plants, which can be transported safely by climate controlled sea containers (reefer containers), to reach market destinations without harming the quality of the plants.

Facts: transit time of sea containers from Surabaya (East Java sea port), to Rotterdam sea port (The Netherlands) is approximately 4 weeks. It is proven that the quality of Rhapis excelsa plants do not deteriorate during this transit time in closed sea containers. Long research (lessons learned) on methods of loading / stuffing containers, maintaining ventilation and temperature inside container etc. has contributed to the sucessfull transportation of these plants from origin to overseas markets.

Due to the ongoing economic crisis in The Netherlands (Europe and the Western world as a whole), the ornamental plant trade has been hard hit. When formerly, we could export to import/trading companies in The Netherlands, which sold the imported plants to nurseries /plant growers in The Netherlands. Plant growers in the Netherlands needed approximately 2 – 3 months to grow imported plants to reach quality level for the local ornamental plant trade (retail) in The Netherlands/Europe. Nowadays, this market chain is not feasible anymore. Local growers in The Netherlands have gone bankrupt. Due to lower retail prices and weaker demand, it becomes necessary to produce very high quality plants directly in Indonesia. Very high quality plants from Indonesia could be directly marketed in The Netherlands and only need 2 – 3 weeks in a greenhouse in The Netherlands for adaptation, before plants are marketed (retail).

Rhapis Excelsa used as indoor decoration plant Changi Airport Singapore)

The company PT Palm Hijau Lestari has developed a large network of individual small growers in several villages and districts, which are now able to regularly provide a large number of young plants.
The trade of these plants has greatly contributed towards the well being of the local farmers, farmers obtain a steady income and several side businesses have developed like the production of coconut fiber (from the coconut husk) and the production of high quality compost from chicken manure, currently the company PT PHL is doing research to implement other small scale agri projects which will enable the development of agribusiness in general like small scale (cat) fish farming and cow fattening.

Overall the cultivation of these plants has brought an increase in revenue for the whole district, as can be seen from data from the agriculture department (East Java province/export revenue of horticulture products).

Cultivation process and export (loading container) of Rhapis Excelsa potted plants from East Java:

See also / download pictures:  FOTO Total English Rhapis

  • Plants are carefully dug out from villagers’ gardens and are directly transported to nursery to be processed.
  • Plants are directly planted in plastic covered (green) houses, to reduce stress and prevent evaporation, which will result in minimum loss of green leaves and reduce stress.
  • After 1 month in covered greenhouses (high humidity and high temperatures), plants start to grow and form new rooting system.
  • Plants are then potted into nicely formed shapes (pot size – plant size – number plants / pot), to create a proportionate shaped bunch full of leaves from bottom to top, newly potted plants are again placed in covered plastic greenhouses to force growth and after several more weeks / full new growth and nice developed root system, plants are ready to be placed outside greenhouse (shaded).
  • Plants are placed outside the covered greenhouses (under shade) and plants are “finished” during another 2 – 3  months to become 100% good quality plants for export.

Goal of PT Palm Hijau Lestari is to deliver best quality plants which do not need much adaptation after arrival at destination (The Netherlands),  being able to create highest added value, which will benefit local farmers through comprehensive and integrated assistance in rural commercial activities.

The Rhapis excelsa palm variety is indigenous (endemic) for this region, and therefore the local community should be given an opportunity to exploit this natural resource to the fullest, to benefit future generations in the area.

(plants loaded in container)

The company PT PalmHijauLestari (PHL) is established as a foreign investment company (PMA) in Indonesia. All activities are legalized and the company is paying taxes to Indonesian government as a Trading Company Horticulture products.

mail: palmhijau@gmail.com /  phone (Indonesia):  (62) (0) 821 44 905606

Kees van Riet  /   Director PT PalmHijauLestari.

Please click here for printable text (257 kB): information rhapis-2008 Read more of this post