Spain Gives Catanduanes P30M for Abaca Strippers - BM

VIRAC, Catanduanes—The Fiber Development Authority (FIDA) has received a P30-million grant from the Spanish government for the acquisition of mechanized abaca-stripping machines as part of the aggressive abaca development program being undertaken by the government.

The amount covers this province, noted as the “abaca capital of the Philippines,” and Caraga, also a promising abaca producing region in Mindanao.

Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua last week said that under the program funded by the Agencia EspaƱola de Cooperacion Internacional para Desarollo (AECID), nine of the province’s abaca-producing municipalities will initially receive one unit of the machine.

These machines will significantly improve the province’s abaca-fiber production, citing a Fida study. Cua said the spindle-type equipment can produce 100 kilos to 200 kilos of S2 fiber every day, while manual stripping yields only about 10 kilos each day.

The Spanish grant would be coursed through active abaca farmers’ cooperatives in nine towns which will provide a 150-square-meter lot and a building to house the mobile machine, possibly in areas near abaca plantations.

The machine is a common equipment of abaca farmers in Leyte, where abaca is harvested in the day and stripped at night in the farmers’ homes.

As part of the initiative toward the improvement of the abaca industry in the province under the Catanduanes Unlad AbakaMasa (CUA) program, the governor said high-quality planting materials locally called as abuab are being provided to replace the low-grade varieties known in the locality as amokid.

On the prospect of establishing an abaca pulp and paper mill in the province, Cua said it could not be feasible due to the high cost of investment it requires apart from the anticipated opposition it would draw from environmentalists for the environmentally-unfriendly wastes it would produce.

The CUA program, the governor explained, offers, among others, assistance to abaca farmers through disease eradication and rehabilitation activities in the light of findings that the dreaded abaca bunchy-top, abaca mosaic and bract-mosaic diseases have already infected 15 percent of the province’s 23,676 hectares of abaca plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers.

It is aimed at increasing farm productivity and sustain a production rate increase of 2 percent and to increase the supply of abaca suckers in the province.

In an effort to maintain the adequate supply of abaca-planting materials, the provincial legislative board recently enacted an ordinance imposing a ban on the selling and transporting of suckers, corms and eyebuds outside the province for five years.

Suckers are shoots that grow from the underground root or stem of a plant that produces its own roots and grows into a new plant. Corms are seed pieces and eyebuds are sliced from corms that are also capable of plant reproduction.

The ordinance which would also prevent the spread of abaca-plant diseases provides for a fine of P3,000 or three-month imprisonment for the first offense; P4,000 or six-month imprisonment for the second offense; and P5,000 fine or one-year imprisonment for the third offense of violators, Cua said.

The measure, he said, was enacted in response to findings that some abaca producers and traders have been indiscriminately selling planting materials to buyers from the Bicol mainland and transporting them outside the province.

“This practice poses a great danger to abaca-fiber production as it would result in a probable depletion of abaca plantations and in time would lead to the weakening of our abaca industry to the prejudice of local farmers and traders,” Cua said.

The CUA program also targets the rehabilitation of about 1,185 hectares or 5 percent of the total abaca land area in the province being tilled by 772 farmers.

Aside from abaca rehabilitation and disease eradication, the other components of the program are the establishment of a 1-hectare abaca nursery, technical training on spidle stripping, hands-on training on abaca decortication, and monitoring and evaluation.

Government statistics show that Catanduanes produced 15,160 metric tons of abaca fiber in 2005, representing 20 percent of the country’s total production and 76 percent of Bicol’s harvest.

Fida said the production, however, dwindled to only 8,646 metric tons in January to May 2009 because of the series of typhoons that hit the province and the effects of plant diseases.

Even with this reduced production, however, Catanduanes remains the country’s top abaca-producing province, the Fida said.

Written by Danny O. Calleja / Correspondent
Sunday, 15 November 2009 19:44
Source: Business Mirror - 15 November 2009

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