By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

Gov’t releases roadmap for abaca production

Posted on June 13, 2016

THE government has laid out a five-year roadmap to expand abaca fiber production to 422,630 metric tons (MT) from current output levels reaching less than 70,000 MT for the country’s abaca supply to be more responsive to growing global demand.

A worker unloads bales of abaca fibers at the Jolo port located in the Sulu archipelago July 25, 2000. -- AFP
“Lumalaki ang demand ng abaca fibers sa international market because right now bumabalik na tayo dun sa green economy (Demand of our abaca fibers in the international market is growing because right now we’re going back to the green economy.)” Clarito M. Barron, OIC executive director of Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) told reporters on Friday, adding that the expanding market comes from countries adopting measures to mitigate impacts of climate change.

Last year, abaca fiber production was booked at 67,329 MT which does not meet the average annual global demand of some 90,000 MT. The highest recorded production of abaca in the past decade was at 77,389 MT.

PhilFIDA aims to expand by 2020 new abaca planted areas of around 72,122 hectares (ha) along with increasing hectarage of existing abaca plantations to 251,978 ha.

Last year, areas planted with abaca stood at 179,857 ha, up by 32.29% from the ten years since 2005 when abaca covered plantations of 135, 958 ha.

To achieve its 2020 target, PhilFIDA will be needing P9 billion, part of which will be to ensure adequate supply of disease-free planting materials.

The budget will also be allotted on research and development, establishment and reconstruction of facilities, training, and machines to be given out to farmers encouraged to engage in abaca planting.

According to Mr. Barron, the lucrative price of abaca in the international market entices farmers to plant abaca instead of other crops. In the global market, price of abaca averages P52 per kilo which can reach up to P72 per kilo depending on grade.

Some 89% of abaca supply is exported to world market, where Germany and the United Kingdom are the country’s top exports respectively for pulp and raw fiber.

Meanwhile, the United States is the top importer of cordage while Japan is the biggest on fiber crop demand.

Abaca fiber, known worldwide as Manila hemp, is obtained from the leaf sheath of abaca and is considered the strongest among natural fibers.

Exported abaca fibers are used in making tea bags, sausage casings, pill coatings, paper products, surgical masks, insulation for computer chips, among others.