The Philippines is the largest producer of Abaca fibers supplying about 87% of the world’s requirement for the production of cordage, specialty papers (for currency note, stencil paper, teabag, coffee filter/cup, capacitor and insulation paper, etc.), textiles, furniture and fixtures, handicrafts, novelty items, meat casing, cosmetics and skin care products, grocery bags, composites for automotive and construction and other industrial applications.
For the past half-decade, the Abaca industry helped boost the country`s economy from its export earnings with an annual average of P4.7 billion. Mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao Islands, Abaca fibers are cultivated across 176,549 hectares of farmlands by over 122,758 farmers. And in recent years, it was perceived that aside from the substantial contributions of Abaca to the economy, its utilization can also provide numerous ecological advantages.
The Philippine Abaca plays a vital role in the growing global advocacy for environmental protection and forest conservation. The strong worldwide interest and acceptability for “green” and “organic” products made manufacturing companies, especially in the US and Europe, turn to natural and bio-degradable raw materials like Abaca. Being the strongest among all-natural fibers and having superior qualities over other materials, abaca fibers are preferred over man-made fibers such as plastics and other synthetic materials by various industries around the world. An increased utilization of abaca pulp as raw material by paper manufacturing companies can greatly aid in addressing deforestation. An Abaca plant can be harvested to produce useful fibers after two years from planting. Within its short-term cultivation, the Abaca farmers can produce the natural materials repeatedly needed by various industries thus saving more trees worldwide.
Abaca is a suitable plant to be incorporated in reforestation farming system. The plant can assist in improving biodiversity conditions if intercropped with coconut palms and other tree species within former monoculture plantations and rainforest areas. Planting Abaca can also aid in minimizing erosion and sedimentation problems in coastal areas which are breeding grounds for sea fishes. The plant can effectively improve the water holding capacity of the soil therefore it can prevent floods and landslides as well. Further, the Abaca does not deplete soil as much as other plants and requires less land for its production. Abaca waste materials are used as organic fertilizer by farmers.
Abaca consumption worldwide is predicted to increase due to the introduction of new technologies as well as the rising demand for new industrial uses of abaca fibers. Considering its extremely high tensile strength and versatility for the manufacture of a wide range of eco-friendly products, the Philippines will continue to dominate the global Abaca trade and will stay as the Abaca capital of the world for generations.
The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), is the government agency in charge of developing and sustaining the fiber industry of the country. The agency works to achieve an industry capable of meeting the global demands for renewable and environment-friendly materials.