The destruction of abaca plantations in southern towns by super typhoon Rolly is now beginning to be felt, with shipments of fiber bound for the mainland sharply reduced in the first two months of the year.
In an interview, officials of the Philippine Fiber Authority (PhilFIDA) Catanduanes provincial office disclosed that loose fiber exports from Catanduanes, the transport permits of which passed through the agency, came up to only 271,329 kilograms this January 2021.
When compared to the 434,938-kg output for January 2020, the decline is a huge 38 percent, the agency said.
As of last week, abaca fiber that were shipped out of the island totaled only 411,600 kilograms for the first two months, compared to 547,876 kilograms recorded for the same period in 2020.
Last year, abaca farmers in Catanduanes produced a total of 8,750,048 kilos of the fiber, based on records of transport permits. This does not include shipments made directly by abaca traders to mainland buyers.
PhilFIDA officials say that a sharp decrease in abaca fiber production will be experienced this February to March period, as the December to January output still included fiber stocks kept by the farmers and small traders as well as fiber harvested or salvaged from fallen abaca.
It is claimed that less than half of the 10,000 kilos usually harvested on a weekly basis are being brought in to traders in recent weeks. At one trading company, it has reportedly taken one to three days to gather enough fiber for a 125-kilogram bale.
The buying price of raw abaca fiber remains at a high P95 per kilo for the S2 fiber grade, P94 for I grade and P73 for the JK grade.
The considerable reduction in the province’s output and the delayed release of the P121 million funding for the cash-for-work abaca rehabilitation program would have serious impacts on the island’s economy, to which the abaca industry contributes P150 million a month.
Meanwhile, the local PhilFIDA office disclosed that the distribution of the P5 million financial assistance to abaca farmers after the typhoon is now 99 percent completed.
Under Component 1 covering the Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project (ATBSP) in Caramoran, P5,000 each were given to 100 farmers belonging to the Caramoran Abaca Farmers-Producers Cooperative based in Sabangan.
In the second component covering the Abaca Disease Management Program (ADMP), P2,500 each were given to farmers undertaking removal of diseased plants and replanting of their farms in six towns.
The recipients are as follows: Caramoran – 129 farmers in Obi, Salvacion, Bulalacao, Milaviga, Datag, Sabloyon and Mabini with a total 512 hectares of abaca plantations ; San Miguel – 248 farmers in San Juan, Pagsangahan, JMA Tucao, Caglatawan, San Marcos, Paraiso and Progreso with a total of 690 hectares; Baras – 229 farmers in Puraran, Benticayan, JM Alberto, Agban and Genitligan with a total of 538 hectares; Gigmoto – 180 farmers in Sioron, Sicmil, San Vicente, San Pedro, Biong and Dororian with a total of 234 hectares; and, Bato, 130 farmers in San Roque, San Pedro, Buenavista, Aroyao Pequeno and Oguis with a total of 250 hectares.
The third component involved the release of P2,000 each to 190 farmers per municipality outside the ADMP coverage who have less than one hectare of abaca farms and belong to the poorest of the poor.
PhilFIDA Catanduanes officer-in-charge Eligio Sabalas likewise told the Tribune that the P18-million Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project in Caramoran will be implemented this year once the agency in Manila completes its procurement. It will be managed by the Caramoran Abaca Farmers-Producers Cooperative.
The processing facility alone will cost P15 million, to be built on a one-hectare lot which is the counterpart of the municipal government.
All it needs, he said, are the appropriate clearances from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as the lot is within a protected area and beside the national road.
On the other hand, the agency has begun the shortlisting of applicants for the 15 team leaders and 150 enumerators to be hired under the Natural Fiber Survey and Mapping Project (NFSMP).
The project, which will start this April 2021, will validate the actual area planted to abaca in the province of Catanduanes, with its location to be marked through geo-tagging.