Starting with the P25 million abaca processing facility to be built this year in Caramoran town, the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) plans to establish an additional three or four such facilities in Catanduanes if the budget allows it.
PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales disclosed that the Caramoran facility will produce 99 percent first-class, quality machine-cleaned fibers and also first-class decorticated fibers from the majority 5th to 8th class fibers that local farmers are currently producing.
This will improve the livelihood of abaca farmers in the municipality, by at least doubling their income per working day, lessening by 50 percent per day their burden in producing the fibers, and making them entrepreneurs as the abaca farmers social enterprise members, he said.
Catanduanes, the PhilFIDA executive said, has 36,000 hectares of abaca plantations in 11 towns tilled by 13,777 farmers and accounts for 31 percent of the country’s total abaca fiber production.
In a recent social media post, Costales said the Farmers Social Enterprise (FSE) Abaca Processing Facility is part of the agency’s Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project (ATBSP).
The one-hectare abaca processing facility in Caramoran can cover initially a minimum of 100 hectares to a maximum of 200 hectares only, subject to additional installation of fiber extracting machineries.
“If budget conditions permits, we will establish 3 to 4 more abaca processing facilities in the Happy Island producing all 1st class quality abaca fibers. The dream is to establish actually one each for its 11 municipalities,” he disclosed.
As a non-food agricultural commodity almost all intended for industrial use, abaca has constantly generated foreign revenues for the country for the past 500 years, with 2019’s gross was the highest so far at about $156 million P8.112 billion, the PhilFIDA chief said.
“Assuming all our 99% abaca farmers are organized as FSEs with processing facilities as support to production and operation, the figures can easily be doubled in about five years’ time to P16B or more as they will only be producing 1st class quality fibers,” he added.
Under the agency’s development plan, the ATBSP will organize farmers into cooperatives of about 50 to 350 members or more that will produce their own abaca fibers as a group.
This will result to better quality, competitive price, and increased quantity of fibers, which will be sold directly to Grading and Baling Establishments (GBEs) and local processors.
The traditional way of abaca fiber extraction/harvesting has 12 stages but the project intends to lessen it to only six (6) steps –Topping, Tumbling, Tuxying, Tuxy Bundling, Tuxy Transporting/Hauling and Tuxy Trading /Selling – which will be done by the cooperative.
The farmer will no longer engage in hand-stripping, sun-drying, sorting and classifying, tying in hanks, bundling, carrying, and storing.
“The traditional process is very much labor intensive. This scheme will remove the burden of the abaca farmers of the other six (6) activities and just let them continue producing all the abaca tuxies they want for the day before selling it to their cooperative that same day. This project will surely increase abaca fiber production,” Costales explained.
Under the scheme, the abaca farmers sell their individual abaca tuxy (the thin ribbon-like outer layer of the leaf sheath that contains the fibers) produce per harvest per day of at least 100 kilos to a maximum of 250 kilos each to their cooperative at least one or twice a week.
The cooperative then processes the abaca tuxies into uniform quality stripped fibers based on its desired abaca grades before it sells them to the GBEs.
The advantages of the cooperative scheme, PhilFIDA argues, is that it will be owned by the abaca farmers themselves, there will be no abaca trader or middlemen involved and the buying price per kilo of abaca tuxy is very flexible.
Quality of production is controlled and the cooperative can command a premium price due to guaranteed uniformity in stripping/cleaning, variety and free of foreign matter, it said.
The farmers can practically control the tempo of the game, the agency pointed out, as they can sell direct to the local abaca exporters, pulpers and manufacturers due to the quantity of the fibers and volume in storage.
No cash advances will be released to the farmers for future tuxy deliveries with cash payments made only based on actual deliveries.
The government loan to the cooperative would be paid back through an agreed percentage of sales sharing every end of the calendar year, with the cooperative having the option to go into exporting raw classified abaca fiber in bales and establish their own grocery store.
The abaca farmers will be trained, guided and assisted by PhilFIDA techinicians on all aspects under the scheme, including administrative work, warehousing and fiber trading, grading and classification.