PhilFida needs P9B to expand abaca farms

THE Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFida) said on Friday it will need a budget of P9 billion to bankroll a plan to rehabilitate and expand abaca plantations in the next five years.

PhilFida Executive Director Clarito M. Barron said the agency needs the amount to help the industry produce 149,000 metric tons (MT) of abaca by 2020 under the Philippine Abaca Industry Roadmap.

“This P9 billion [will be used for] the implementation of PhilFida programs, rehabilitation of abaca [plantations], disease management, provision of machines and for the training of the new generation of abaca farmers,” Barron told reporters in an interview. He said the funds will also be used for the establishment of an abaca tissue-culture laboratory and a diagnostic laboratory. Money is also needed to provide vehicles to transport abaca planting materials to upland areas, where most abaca farmers plant, he said.

For 2016 alone, PhilFida said it has already requested an additional budget of P354 million from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to fund several initiatives.

Of this amount, Barron said P40 million will be allotted for the provision of almost 2 million planting materials to farmers. The remaining amount will be used to upgrade laboratories, train farmers, provide machines and improve research.

Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol earlier said the revival of the abaca sector is one of his priorities. Barron said the rehabilitation of the abaca sector would entail two things—expanding abaca-production areas and enhancing the agricultural practices of abaca farmers. “Currently, farmers only harvest 650 kilograms per hectare. But if we enhance our farmers’ cultural management practices, improve irrigation and invoke intercropping practices, we can increase the yield of abaca to as high as 2 MT per hectare,” he said.

To increase production, PhilFida Deputy Executive Director Petronilo Jabay said the agency is targeting to expand abaca-planting areas by 72,000 hectares and rehabilitate another 70,000 hectares by 2020.

Jabay said the additional production volume would help fill the gap in the supply of abaca in the world market. For abaca pulp alone, there is a shortage of about 23,000 MT, he said.

“The demand for abaca pulp is at 90,000 MT, but we only produce 67,000 MT,” Jabay said.

Barron said there is an increasing demand for abaca fiber, as more countries are becoming more aware of the adverse effects of climate change.

“Now big countries are shifting to a green economy, so more are getting natural fibers,” he said.  The Philippines supplies 89 percent of the world’s abaca requirements.Data from the PhilFida showed the country’s abaca production in 2015 rose by 2 percent to 67,329 MT, from 66,004 MT, in 2014.

Abaca exports, likewise, increased by 3.1 percent to $114.79 million in 2015 from $111.33 million recorded in the previous year.

PhilFida data also showed there were 125,530 farmers who planted abaca in 179,858 hectares last year.


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