Bigger world market share for PH abaca looms

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/28 October) – Local abaca farmers should plant more abaca now that the world’s second largest supplier of the product has announced it will reduce its output starting next year, an official said Monday.

Eduardo Holoyohoy, executive director of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) said Filipino farmers should take advantage of a bigger share in the world market with Ecuador’s announcement that it will cut its production by 7,000 metric tons (MT).

Holohoyoy noted that Ecuador is world’s only other source of loose abaca fiber.

He cited that the Philippines supplies 80 percent of the total loose abaca fiber in the world market, and Ecuador supplies the remaining 20 percent.

He said the only recourse is for the Philippines to increase abaca production to fill the supply gap created by Ecuador’s announcement.

PhilFIDA records show the country shipped a total of 275,578.70 bales of commercial abaca fiber from January to July this year, which is equivalent to 34,447.3375 MT.

Last year, PhilFIDA reported that 389,039.70 bales of commercial abaca fiber or 48,629.96 MT were exported by the Philippines.

Holoyohoy said abaca fiber is in demand world-wide citing the United Kingdom and Japan as two of the country’s major markets.

“Japan is using our abaca fiber for their paper bills. They have increased the fiber content of the Japanese Yen to 60 percent as it makes counterfeiting very difficult. The new Philippine peso bill, on the other hand, uses 30 percent abaca fiber content.

“United Kingdom, on one hand, uses the abaca fiber for ropes or cordages,” he explained.

He said the country would be increasing its dominance in the world market, and that it should be ready to supply the demand abroad following Ecuador’s announcement.

The Department of Trade and Industry has identified abaca as one of the six regional champion products as approved by the Regional Development Council-9 in 2011.

PhilFIDA data showed that Zamboanga Peninsula, including the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, produced 529.66 MT of loose abaca fiber last year.

However, Holoyohoy said that last year’s abaca production was lower by 17.86 percent (115.2 MT) compared to the 644.86 MT produced in 2012 brought about by pest infestation.

He said they are optimistic regional production will improve this year as disease management initiatives were already implemented to avoid contamination of other abaca plantations. (MindaNews)