PRODUCTION of abaca in the country grew by more than a quarter in the first half of the year due to increasing demand from the traditional overseas markets while higher farmgate prices encouraged farmers to harvest more, the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) said on Wednesday.
In its latest report, FIDA said abaca output rose 28.7 percent to 236,451 (in bales of 125 kilos) in January to June from 183,701 bales a year earlier.
FIDA Planning Division chief Ramon Branzuela attributed the increase in output to strong demand from traditional markets such as the United States, Europe, and Asia.
“Farmers are now enjoying higher farmgate prices. We are expecting the trend to continue for the rest of the year as our foreign buyers continue to replenish stocks,” Branzuela said in a telephone interview.
He said demand for abaca pulp, in particular, is expected to rise further as more manufacturers shift to more sustainable raw materials for their products.
FIDA is banking on the help of some local private groups in introducing innovative products made from abaca, and shift exports to more eco-friendly products and renewable materials, Branzuela said.
In the first quarter of 2014 alone, total earnings from abaca exports jumped 60.59 percent to $33.94 million from $21.13 million in the same period last year. The figures reflect growing consumer interest in using eco-friendly and renewable materials such as abaca and other natural fibers, FIDA said.
Exports of abaca pulp, the biggest gainer, surged 131.1 percent to 7,862 metric tons in January to March 2014 from last year’s 3,689 MT. Top importers during the period include the US, Germany, the UK and Japan.
Abaca pulp shipments were valued at about $25.81 million, up by more than 80 percent from the $14.18 million in the comparative period.
Abaca fiber exports soared 87.7 percent to 15,130 bales in the first quarter from 8,062 bales a year earlier. Top importers of Philippine-grown abaca fiber were the UK, Japan, China, Indonesia and India.
The Philippines’ export earnings from raw fiber jumped 80 percent to $2.61 million from $1.45 million during the period, FIDA said.
Shipments of abaca cordage, however, dropped to 935 MT in the first three months of 2014, down 16.5 percent from 1,120 MT a year earlier. This resulted in a 5.37 percent fall in earnings to $2.61 million from $2.76 million.
Abaca, commercially known as Manila hemp, is used to manufacture specialty paper sheets used in the production of currency or bank notes, electrolytic condenser papers, filter papers, tea bags, meat casings, disposables, cigarette paper and non-woven products, among others. Abaca pulp is used in strengthening facial tissues, table napkins, diapers and recycled papers.
The Philippines is considered one of the world’s biggest suppliers of abaca products, with exports valued at about $100 million annually.