For Catanduanes, Is it Quo Vadis, Abaca?


We are late posting in here the good news about abaca in the Bicol region where once again last year, the indigenous plant top-ranked production in the country. But it seems, whatever encouraging news the accompanying piece brought forward may just be a footnote to the aspirations of abaca farmers and producers more directly in Catanduanes, the top abaca producing province.

In fact, this is a rejoinder to the article here:  Catanduanes, Church, Renews Stand VS Coal Mining

So after reading the linked post above, would you rather ignore reading the news article below? It is really understandable IF you do since very soon it will be water under the bridge.

Anyway, let us bask for a while the good news about abaca, before the coal mining activity now poised to ravish the fertile island-province of the Cantandunganons, start digging and excavations.

The Bicol region is now the top producer of abaca fiber after being spared from strongest typhoons for the past few years, Mary Anne Molina, officer-in-charge director of Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) here said.

Abaca, internationally known as Manila hemp, is one of the indigenous crops of Bicol and accounts for 32 percent of total abaca output of the country this year, according to FIDA official.

“Bicol region surpassed Eastern Visayas in abaca production. We’re now the top abaca producer accounting for almost 32 percent output production for the past eight-month period,” she said.

Eastern Visayas is the second top producer of abaca although its production declined by almost 3 percent while the third highest producer is Davao, which registered a 32.7-percent increase from the previous year.

Overall picture

About 50,212.34 hectares of abaca farms in the region are being cultivated by 21,124 abaca farmers. Abaca fiber is considered as the strongest among natural fibers and the products derived from abaca are export champions.

The Philippines is the world’s leading producer of abaca fiber that is why abaca is also called “Manila hemp” with major market in United States and Germany, FIDA official here said.

Abaca is mainly grown in Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions and the backbone of the livelihoods of thousands of families in the countryside.

To upgrade and level-off internationally the abaca industry in Bicol, the Regional Development Council (RDC) in Bicol instituted the “Pinukpok” fashion show, mandating the region’s chief executives and heads of various government agencies here to showcase the couture collections of Bicolano designers.

Albay Pinukpok Fashion show was held in June 2010 to show off the elegance of the unique fabric made out of Bicol’s indigenous golden fiber. The provincial government also poured in budget to help out the women’s cooperative doing Pinukpok fabric products here.

Weavers of the women cooperative in Legazpi trained on scouring, bleaching, drying, natural dye extraction, advanced weaving and application on abaca textile through the assistance of Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Abaca, considered as the strongest natural fiber in the world, the only one that can match the durability of synthetic fibers as the abaca’s strength, was originally used for ship rigging and other heavy-duty industrial applications.

Because of abaca’s socioeconomic impact on many Filipinos, the Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI), a research and development agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), continues to encourage activities that strengthen the abaca industry.

The country supplies more than half of the world’s demand for abaca.

Abaca fabrics have gained popularity abroad as a packaging material. The growing concern for environmental protection and forest conservation the world over has provided more opportunities for natural fiber like abaca.

It is expected that demand would be long-term due to the growing popularity of environment-friendly materials, especially in developed countries. According to FIDA, the most important factor in the industry’s development is the European market, which buys more than half of the country’s exports.

Abaca is also used for the manufacture of currency notes, security papers and specialty papers for tea bags, sausage casings, cigarette papers, plug wrap filters and among others. Specialty papers account for more than 80 percent of the global consumption.


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