Catanduanes abaca prices post sharp rise

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LEGAZPI CITY, 14Oct2013 (PNA) – High-grade abaca fiber in Catanduanes could now fetch a price reaching P53 per kilo, a sharp rise posted by the start of the third quarter of this year from its usual buying price of P38 per kilo.

Prices of other fiber varieties such as the second class also jumped from P38 to P49 per kilo; third class, P25 to P44 per kilo and even the lowest grades of abaca varieties, GR and Baba, rose from P17 and P12 to P38 and P30 per kilo, respectively.

The province’s governor, Araceli Wong, in a statement reaching here Monday, said she worked on it by directly talking with abaca buyers in the international market from whom she obtained assurances of support, provided local farmers keep the quality of their fiber within global standards.

“Clinging to the global standards will keep for us the image of an efficient producer of high-grade abaca products and maintain our hold on the global market,” Wong said, noting that some farmers tend to cut corners in the fiber processing by delivering low-quality produce, which does not fetch a good price in the market.

Catanduanes, a province sitting off the northeastern side of the Bicol Peninsula, is a 182,300-hectare island, has a total of 23,676 hectares of abaca plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers, records of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) regional office here show.

Wong said domestic and international buyers she invited showed up at the Aqua and Agricultural Exhibits in Naga City during the recent Peñafrancia Festival where they saw for themselves how versatile the province’s abaca products are when processed for the world market.

She stressed that quality plays a big role in any competition and it will do good for the province when rigid quality control is maintained, the newly elected lady governor said, noting that Catanduanes remains the country’s top abaca producer with its yearly production averaging 18,971 metric tons (MT) of export quality fiber.

This fiber production figure represents 33.2 percent of the total national output and Wong said she is optimistic the prevailing pricing trend would continue to be bullish as prices in the world market rise.

Abaca fiber traders in Tabaco City, the main trading point of Catanduanes products off the island, however, said abaca prices in the world market usually pick up during the second quarter of each year owing to increasing volume of demand.

Historically, demand during the first quarter declines, resulting in lower prices, they said.

With an 84-percent share of the world’s abaca fiber production, the Philippines is considered the international abaca capital since the Spanish era with Catanduanes and Leyte as top producers.

For the past 10 years, the country’s exports of abaca fiber averaged 13,434 MT per annum as the demand of the country’s major trading partners – the United Kingdom and Japan — contracted substantially, particularly in 2009 when financial crisis hit the global economy.

>Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, is the premier destination of Philippine abaca fiber, absorbing an average of 6,663 MT or 49.6 percent of the ten-year average exports.

The country posted an amount of US$ 120 million in abaca export earnings last year or an over P5 billion on the back of increased demand for abaca pulp and cordage in the Philippines’ major markets.

From 2001 through 2010, the country’s production of abaca fiber averaged 65,701 MT per year.

Apart from fiber, popularly called in the international market as Manila hemp, latest industrial technologies have also been making way into the commercial production of organic fertilizer from abaca enzymes in the Philippines, the first and only abaca-based fertilizer and natural insect repellant in the world.

Agricultural studies show that this kind of fertilizer is economical, being highly concentrated so that one liter is good for one hectare of rice field per cropping.

Abaca enzyme is a conditioner that rapidly stabilize the soil’s pH (measure of acidity or alkalinity) to ensure maximum nutrient absorption and enhance palay growth.

There is also now the abaca soap that comes from Philippine abaca enzyme and proven good for regeneration of stressed and irritated skin.

According to studies, the enzyme further revitalizes and strengthens the skin and the abaca soap that contains it and wrapped in handmade abaca paper is now in the world market finding its way to European spas.

“Our abaca is getting into a wider market not only because of its fiber and pulp but also of its extract called enzyme that is why we want our plantations given utmost care and attention. One way of protecting our abaca is doing away with cutting of trees that provides shades to the plantation,” Wong said.

On the plant diseases like bunchy top and mosaic virus affecting the province’s plantations, she said her administration is willing to extend financial assistance to the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) in providing the cure.

The FIDA regional office for Bicol based here had earlier said that around 1,000 hectares of abaca land scattered among the 11 municipalities of the province need rehabilitation and treatment from the plant diseases that could spread to other areas once left uncontrolled.

Funds are needed for these purposes and FIDA is asking assistance from the provincial government in the amount of P2 million for its abaca disease eradication program in Catanduanes. (PNA)

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