SALAY, Misamis Oriental, PH, May 4 — Major stakeholders of the abaca industry in Misamis Oriental met on May 4, 2017 to exchange updates on the state of supply and demand and how to overcome the challenges currently facing the abaca industry. Jointly, they charted their course of action to fill in the demand gap of abaca fiber in and outside the province by linking the farmers to markets such as handicraft industries in the locality.
PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales encouraged the abaca farmers not to give up in face of the many challenges they are encountering, saying “abaca farming is a business with good returns of investment.“
Costales urged the stakeholders to support PhilFIDA’s new special project “Abaca Tuxy Buying—Farmers‘ Cooperative Business Concept“ to address the industry’s many challenges (1) on quality (fake fibers, low grade or mixed fibers); (2) low farm gate prices; and (3) inadequate volume of fibers produced.
He encouraged the abaca players in Salay and Lagonglong to organize themselves into cooperatives to help them meet their common economic and social needs and aspirations as well as have a stronger voice in the industry.
PhilFIDA-Northern Mindanao Acting Regional Director Aida M. Roxas encouraged the stakeholders to plant more abaca as she assured them of available markets for their fibers. “Naay merkado. Market ang atong unahon (There’s a market. Let’s ensure that first),“ she added.
During the forum, the stakeholders agreed to create a technical working group (TWG) to further elevate the industry as a viable enterprise in Misamis Oriental. The Work Plans of the TWG will be attached to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the farmers/producers, processors and traders, and handicraft industries. This will be presented to the respective Municipal Council of Salay and Lagonglong for LGU support.
The forum, which was facilitated by Au Laotoco, senior advisor for Sustainable Livelihoods Development of GIZ COSERAM, also served as a venue for abaca farmers, fiber processors and traders to established direct market links with other major industry players.
Nelson Acosta of the Salay-based Alipuaton Abaca Farmers Association was able to link with the Lagonglong-based Tinabuan Arts and Crafts and Lagonglong Sinamay Producers Association (LASPA) for the supply of sinamay and high-grade abaca fibers for handicraft. Tinabuan Arts and Crafts facbricates abaca-based products like sinamay, hinabol, ribbons, placemats, bags, fashion accessories, and Christmas decors. LASPA, on the other hand, is primarily engaged in the manufacturing of sinamay, table runners and placemats.
An abaca fiber trader in Salay, Cecilia Balangyaw, said that she buys all classess of abaca fiber. She lamented that abaca farmers and even fiber processors do not know the different grades or classes of abaca fibers. “I only buy all-in (all classes of abaca fiber). If farmers know the fiber classes, they would fetch better prices,“ she said.
Erlina F. Quijada, bookkeeper of the Guinalaban Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative, said that it is most convenient for them that Salay Handmade Products Industries, Inc. (SHAPII) is buying reject abaca fibers and cuttings, locally called “taw“ or “tao“, as raw materials for their handmade paper products.
The Abaca Stakeholders‘ Forum, convened under the Sustainable Livelihoods Development of the GIZ COSERAM Programme, was held (1) to identify issues and concerns of the farmers and processors that may need support from the LGUs, PhilFIDA and other support organizations in order to help improve the livelihoods of the communities through inclusive business models; (2) to facilitate the agreement for the sustainable supply of raw materials to the processors by the farmers or raw material producers; and (3) to determine the basis for further COSERAM intervention specific to the development of the abaca handicraft industry in Misamis Oriental. (Aldin Beta-a)