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Abaca Subsector Action Research Report

This subsector action research (SAR) documents the study on the abaca subsector where CEFA (assisted by EVPRD) operates its biodiversity-friendly enterprise (BDFE) located within the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) in Mondragon, Northern Samar. The results of the abaca SAR served as basis for guiding the strategic development and investment planning process to scale up the BDFE of EVPRD-CEFA along a social entrepreneurship framing. This was participated in by all the subsector and project stakeholders identified under the ISEA project “Model Building for Scaling Up BDFE Initiatives” funded by UNDP GEF-SGP5. The SAR used both primary and secondary data gathering methodologies. This covers the macro (global and national) and industry-level abaca historical past and present situation, as well as micro and local conditions at the ground level. Data and information were gathered and analyzed around the following major components: (a) socio-economic profile of the primary stakeholders (abaca farmers, women and farm workers), (b) condition of the natural resource base and state of biodiversity in area and its impact on the abaca subsector, (c) market and enterprise situation of the abaca value chain, and (d) level of support of enablers in the locality both from the public and private sector and how all these affect the development and growth of the abaca subsector and industry. 

The Abaca Subsector 

The Philippine abaca industry is centuries old. Abaca cultivation and utilization dates back to the pre- and Spanish colonial period. The Spaniards used abaca fiber to manufacture ropes for their ships that sailed between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico for the Galleon trade. The American colonial period — the years 1900s to 1940s — is considered to be the peak period of the Philippine abaca industry. During this period other uses of abaca fiber aside from textile and cordage were discovered. Bicol region, Samar Island, Leyte and later, Davao and the rest of Mindanao, are the main producers of abaca. 

Industry decline started in the mid-1940s until 1980s. Abaca fiber trading in the Philippines involved a lot of middlemen with the farmers ending up receiving only 25 to 50 percent of the buying price. Commercial use of plastic, nylon, and other synthetics for cordage has greatly reduced the market for abaca fiber and contributed to the unstable prices in the local and international market. The industry almost collapsed in the 1960s to 1980s due to low production. 

The development of local businesses that process abaca raw materials saved the industry from collapsing. Abaca products have diversified into pulp and specialty papers, cordage, handwoven fabrics, and fiber crafts. Abaca is also being introduced in the automobile and construction industry. Germany and other European countries, Japan, and the US are the biggest export market of Philippine abaca, particularly pulp (the product used in making paper). The bulk of abaca exports are pulp products. 

The Philippines still currently dominates the world market for abaca. It supplies 87.5% of the total global demand even with stiff competition from Ecuador, the growing demand of local industries, and limited abaca fiber production. Eastern Visayas was the top abaca producing region from 1993 to 2010. The province of Northern Samar is the current largest abaca producer in Eastern Visayas and the 2nd major abaca producing province in the Philippines behind Catanduanes. Abaca fiber production in Northern Samar was stable from 1990 to 1998 until it became unstable in 2006. From then it slowly increased until 2015. The peak productivity of abaca fiber production was attained in 2014 at 7,579 MT. The most recent typhoon that severely damaged abaca farms in Northern Samar was typhoon Nona in December 2015. 

Download the FULL REPORT via this link: https://www.isea-group.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ISEA-Abaca-Subsector-Action-Research_29Nov2019.pdf