DA expands abaca development project

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 25, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is expanding the local abaca industry in order to boost production amid continued shortage in supply of the natural fiber.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the provinces of Leyte, Biliran and Samar Island could now establish their own nurseries as planting materials are now available to slowly revive the local abaca industry.

“The planting materials of the inusa variety of abaca which thrives well in the Eastern Visayas region will come from the over 700 hectares of rehabilitated farms in Sogod in Southern Leyte which were developed in 2016,” Piñol said.

In 2016, the Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFida) entered into a memorandum of agreement with the municipality of Sogod for the rehabilitation of the abaca farms which were destroyed by diseases and poor farm management.

The DA initially released P50 million to acquire healthy planting materials and rehabilitate existing farms to produce additional planting materials for an expansion program.

“I already directed PhilFida executive director Kennedy Costales to inform the mayors of all towns surrounding Sogod that they can start setting up their own municipal nurseries by requesting for planting materials from PhilFida’s regional office,” Piñol said.

Under the program which will be implemented with the local government units of Eastern Visayas, planting materials good for one to three hectares will be given to at least eight towns every month on the condition that suckers produced from these municipal nurseries will be distributed to the farmers in their respective towns.

The DA will provide the planting materials and the technical assistance, including supervision of the municipal nurseries, while the municipalities will provide the nursery area, workers and other farm inputs needed to maintain the nursery.

Production of abaca in the Philippines has been declining due to poor farm management and prevalence of diseases.

Abaca shortage is now at 60,000 metric tons per year. To fill this demand, farmers need to plant an additional 90,000 hectares.

For many years, demand for abaca continues to increase with its growing number of uses including ropes, twines, fishing lines and nets, as well as paper-making.

Abaca is also being used in automotive and aeronautics and forms part of Philippine banknotes.

The Philippines is one of the three countries, including Costa Rica and Ecuador, that produces abaca.

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