Mountain Province Silk, Abaca Fiber Makers Inspire Establishment of Fiber Dev’t Office

Mountain Province abaca farmers and other producers of natural fibers like Kapangan’s raw silk producers are the focus of the recently inaugurated regional office of the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA), a government official said.

BY LYN V. RAMO
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Vol. VIII, no. 28, August 17-23, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (247 kms. North of Manila) – Mountain Province abaca farmers and other producers of natural fibers like Kapangan’s raw silk producers are the focus of the recently inaugurated regional office of the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA), a government official said.

“The farmers are the most important stakeholders for whom we are here for,” said FIDA Administrator Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano during the opening ceremonies of the regional office,which covers the Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan regions.

A group of raw silk producers from Kapangan and a trader of Natonin’s abaca fiber were among those present during the opening program on Aug. 12, at Wangal town here.

Soriano said the country produces around 30 fiber crops but only 14 are traded in commercial volumes. These include abaca, banana, buntal, coir, kapok, kenaf, kozo, maguey, pineapple, raffia, ramie, salago, silk and sisal.

Cordillera has pineapples, maguey, banana, abaca and silk. Fiber venture, however, is confined to abaca and raw silk.

Potential abaca production

Soriano said Natonin farmers grow abaca in around 900 hectares. “Where there is plenty of rain, the abaca thrives,” she said.

Abaca grows in the wild in Natonin and some barangays (villages) in Paracelis and Barlig, making Mountain Province the only abaca-growing area in Northern Luzon.

High cost of production is one problem abaca growers face. Although abaca fiber production has potential in Natonin due to the natural growing plants, local farmers have yet to benefit from it, owing to the low technical know-how among locals. Most abaca strippers are from the Bicol region.

Natonin produced some 28 tons of abaca fiber last year. A kilo costs P34 ($0.75 at the Aug. 15 exchange rate of $1:P45.31) on the average, according to David Ayuno, who sells the fibers to the Manila Cordage Corporation.

Four more companies, Jing B Corporation in Bulacan, Pacific Continental Company and Tan Abaca Buying Company, are interested in Natonin’s abaca.

Ayuno said local farmers could not produce the finest type of abaca fiber because they need a specialized machine to be able to come up with such.

About 85 percent of the world’s abaca fiber supply comes from the Philippines, while the remaining 15 percent comes from Ecuador, the only other commercial producer, Soriano told the crowd of well-wishers and the Benguet-based press.

Silk venture

Silk production in the Cordillera got its boost when a P1-million ($22,070.31) fund was given by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) last year. The funds were used to finance 20 rearing houses for silk production.

The rearing houses are in Barangays Cuba, Labueg, Pudong, Pongayan. Cayapes, and Taba-ao.

According to Linda Conde, 59, DDB gave P50,000 ($1,103) per rearing house.

Marietta Lee, 43, said the farmers contributed labor and wood for the walls, door and windows.

Raw silk produced in Kapangan sells at P2,000 ($44.14) per kilo, according to Rosita Andiso, 75. Dried cocoons are classified into three classes and command from P90 ($1.99) to P130 ($2.87) per kilo, depending on the moisture content.

Andiso said the farmers transport the cocoons to the FIDA in La Trinidad to avail of the drier.

Silkworm eggs come from the Benguet State University (BSU), which sells them to farmers at P57 ($1.26) per pack. These produce nine to 16 kilos of cocoon in 12 days.

After drying the cocoons, farmers then reel off the fiber to make raw silk. Traders buy the reeled silk and spin it further into threads used in weaving silk fabrics.

According to the Kapangan farmers, they started planting mulberry for silkworms in 2003. Around 20 farmers are already into silk production. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)

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