Abaca stages a comeback

Councilor Leo Avila said the city is helping farmers in planting abaca in 5,000 hectares of land, especially in the highlands.

Among the companies reportedly interested in the fiber, which was the more popular crop before Davao shifted to banana decades ago, is the German automobile maker BMW, which prefers abaca fibers instead of fiber glass. Other car manufacturers have reportedly followed suit.

Before World War II, American entrepreneurs reportedly managed vast abaca plantations in Davao totalling 45,000 hectares.

Abaca is indigenous in the Philippines and can easily grow in between trees. Avila noted that it is suitable in the highlands, and could help preserve watershed areas. Davao City alone has nine watershed areas covering 80,000 hectares, he said.

He said Davao farmers better grab the opportunity because of the high demand for abaca, which now sells for P52 per kilo. Avila noted, though, that the price could shoot up to as much as P200 a kilo.

The problem is, abaca plants in Davao now reportedly have diseases and thus need to be replaced.
Avila said the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) is now helping out, putting up a laboratory here where tissues for disease-free abacas are being cultured. But he said the city government is also planning to put up its own laboratory.

For this project, the city has allotted P1 million from its annual development fund. Rep. Sid Ungab of the city’s third district, also vowed to add more money for the project. But Avila said more money is needed because a good laboratory costs P10 million.
Avila said there are plans by players in the abaca industry to put up an abaca council that will guide in the propagation of abaca.

Indigenous people living in Sibulan have also expressed interest they would plant abaca in their ancestral lands. Avila said at least 8,000 hectares of ancestral lands are available for abaca farms. (MindaNews)