Challenges the Abaca Industry in the Philippines Must Overcome
Philippines is still the world’s largest exporter of abaca but, naturally, this is determined by competition. Indonesia and Costa Rica are fast catching up with Philippines in exporting abaca. Add to this that Philippines, despite the large production, imports abaca from Ecuador because Ecuador’s abaca are cheaper. If the Philippines wants to stay on top of the abaca business, it must pick up its pace and innovate machinery and the programs offered by the government.
One distinct factor that leads to other countries catching up on Philippines, is that they are rapidly industrializing abaca production. Ecuador exports abaca to us because they produce more abaca. With more abaca, they are able to export abaca at a lower price. Indonesia and Costa Rica farm abaca in plantation-like setups so, like Ecuador, they can produce more abaca and export at lower prices. In Philippine setting, abaca is harvested by small-scale farming.
Large part of harvested abaca fibers and pulps are exported. While this is important in profit, this may not be the best route to sustain the industry itself within Philippines. When abaca is exported, the larger portion of profit goes to the traders who scout for buyers. The local farmers only earn little from exports. To sustain abaca farming, the national government through the local government units must implement programs that will strengthen local abaca handicraft businesses. Local abaca farmers earn more with local trades. A balance must be kept to make sure that abaca farming is sustainable but profitable for traders and, most importantly, the farmers. After all, the farmers are the ones who put in brute force and effort into planting, harvesting, and processing.
Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) says that they have prepared programs to strengthen abaca cooperatives. All they need is sufficient support and funding from the government. They have prepared the Philippine Abaca Roadmap 2018-2022 which is an outline of plans and strategies that will make the abaca industry more efficient and profitable, providing livelihood. In this program, PhilFIDA aims to expand abaca farming in plantation setups, and establishing more abaca nurseries to suffice required amount of seedlings for farming.
The quality of abaca exported is declining, according to PhilFIDA. This is due to poor classification systems both farming and processing. That is why empowering biologists and agricultural engineers in the program. They can help tremendously with nursing the seedlings to make sure that farmers will farm healthy abaca to reap high quality fibers and pulp.
All of these measures can be taken to make sure Philippines will produce abaca in higher quantities, superior quality, and to reduce its price. Keeping in mind the challenges and formulating proactive and sustainable solutions, the abaca industry remains very lucrative.
- Abaca fiber and handicraft exports. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://business.mb.com.ph/2018/10/19/abaca-fiber-and-handicraft-exports-5/
- Editorial, B. M. (2018, July 31). Countering threats to PHL abaca sector: BusinessMirror Editorial. Retrieved from https://businessmirror.com.ph/2018/07/31/countering-threats-to-phl-abaca-sector/