Malaybalay abaca industry still sluggish

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 August) – Local farmers are yet to maximize the economic potential of producing abaca even if the city government has provided support to the industry for at least 10 years now, said Herculano Ronolo, city administrator and former coordinator of the city planning and development office.

Ronolo attributed this largely to the lack of skills on the part of the farmers to produce items that command better prices. He said that since they lack skills in how to fashion innovative products from abaca the farmers rely on selling fiber to the traders who dictate the prices.

He said the farmers were trained to extract quality fiber and to make hinabol or abaca fiber cloth.

“But they need to learn to craft innovative products and designs, too,” he said.

Ronolo said he wanted the farmers to acquire skills in producing goods that are sellable in malls and other outlets in Manila and other cities.

“That’s more than the usual products like hats, bags, and other usual products from abaca produced by local craft circles,” he explained.

Ronolo promised to provide funding from the Gender and Development fund, which is five percent of the city’s annual budget for the farmers’ training with the Department of Trade and Industry providing the expertise.

For this year, the city has in internal revenue share of P766 million.

Ronolo noted that while Malaybalay City increased its abaca production particularly in areas where it is traditionally planted, it has been hampered by a disease that commonly affected the crop since the 1990s.

But he did not give the exact quantity of local abaca production and by how much it has increased.

Also Quimba, provincial agriculturist, said in a text message that abaca plants in Bukidnon are commonly affected by a virus named alkoheres, carried by so-called musa insects.

The virus infects abaca buds until they rot. Abaca infected with the virus is characterized by wilted leaves, he said.

Ronolo said the farmers don’t consider yet abaca as a primary crop, as they largely produce fiber for the buyers who don’t pay much.

“They still do not see fast and direct income opportunity from the industry yet,” he added.

He said most of them plant corn or other primary crops and treat abaca, a crop that serves as undergrowth for forested areas, as a secondary crop.

He added that aside from distributing looms, the city has focused the distribution of free abaca planting materials in five barangays namely, Can-ayan, Kibalabag, Manalog, Capitan Anghel, Imbayao, and Mapayag.

In the Department of Trade and Industry’s profile of Bukidnon products, Malaybalay City’s entry for the One Town-One Product program is abaca.

Ronolo said the City Agriculture Office has produced disease-free abaca suckers using a plant tissue laboratory. The suckers were distributed to the farmers in villages identified as main producers of abaca. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)