Virac, Catanduanes – Despite the decline in abaca production in the province of Catanduanes in 2023, the province remains the leading producer of abaca fiber in the country.

In an interview with Radyo Peryodiko, Provincial Fiber Officer Bert Lusuegro of PhilFIDA stated that the potential production of the province could reach 40,000 metric tons, equivalent to 40 million kilos per year. This potential has not yet been achieved due to a lack of equipment and fluctuating market prices.

Despite these challenges, no other province has surpassed Catanduanes in abaca production nationwide, even with the drop in prices. In 2023, the province produced only 14,000 metric tons, equivalent to 14 million kilos per year or 700 million pesos. This production is lower than the 18,000 metric tons produced in 2022, with a decrease of nearly 4,000 metric tons due to the aforementioned reasons.

It can be recalled that Catanduanes’ production almost reached 18,000 tons in 2022 before the price drop, which significantly affected the livelihoods of abaca farmers. Prices fell to 15 to 20 pesos per kilo, causing many farmers to abandon their plantations. Additionally, the disease known as “bunchy top” has impacted the health of abaca plants.

In February 2024, the price of abaca fiber began to rise in the market, with S-JK: Seconds (fair quality) increasing from 15-20 pesos to 56 pesos per kilo, S-G: Soft Second (good quality) to 60 pesos, S-I Current (good quality) to 70 pesos, and S-S2: Streaky Two (excellent quality) to 85 pesos.

Due to the continued increase in prices, officials believe that the supply will rise as demand in the international market grows. In line with this, PhilFIDA is set to distribute abaca toolkits or Modified Abaca Stripping knives (Hagot) with three blades to 450 abaca farmers on May 29, 2024, to ease the abaca stripping process. These tools, which cost 9,000 pesos each, total around 4 million pesos funded by PhilFIDA. Each type of blade is in demand in the market, providing significant help to farmers’ production.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2023, the top 10 abaca-producing provinces in the country are as follows: Catanduanes leads with 22,017 metric tons, followed by Northern Samar with 6,943.50 metric tons, Davao Oriental with 4,370.57 metric tons, Bukidnon with 4,001.43 metric tons, Surigao Del Sur with 3,573.92 metric tons, Davao Oriental again with 3,491 metric tons, Agusan Del Sur with 3,259.47 metric tons, Sulu with 3,057 metric tons, Aklan with 1,828.35 metric tons, and Southern Leyte with 1,654.79 metric tons. (Ferdie Brizo) Photo via Prov’l Tourism Office

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