By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said a proposed bill seeking to require the use of abaca for the manufacture of the country’s paper bills and other official documents is now in the works.
Piñol said over the weekend that there are now moves to submit to Congress a draft bill that would enact a law that would make mandatory the use of Abaca fiber in the making of the country’s paper bills, security papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, land titles, official documents, and graduation diplomas.
Abaca is a plant that produces the strongest natural fiber in the world and is indigenous to the Philippines.
Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is now gearing up efforts to promote abaca farming in the country.
“There is a shortage of Abaca now because government in the past failed to address the problems of the farmers including diseases which virtually decimated the industry,” Piñol said.
Abaca, along with coffee and cacao, are among the high value crops being pushed by the DA because of high earning potentials.
According to him, there is an earning potential of P140,000 per hectare per year in abaca farming.
Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFida), an attached agency to DA tasked to develop and watch over the abaca sector, earlier said it wants a higher budget for next year.
PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales said in an interview with reporters that the agency was asking for a P3.2-billion budget for next year. This is 800 percent increase from its P300-million total budget this year.
Costales said the budget will help PhilFIDA cater to the projected annual demand of 120,000 metric tons (MT) of abaca by 2022.
According to him, the demand stands at 90,000 MT right now, while the country can produce 60,000 MT to 72,000 MT every year.
Costales said PhilFIDA is also planning to create new sub-industries in the abaca sector.
“All the other natural fibers, we will engage now. We will increase the production to help the farmers. We will plant all natural fibers,” Costales said.
In 2016, the country’s total revenue from abaca fiber exports reached $25.781 million, 33.9 percent higher than the $19.26 million it had in 2016.
United Kingdom is still the top buyer of Philippine abaca fiber, buying nearly half of the total abaca exports last year.
To recall, the government is keeping a conservative growth target for the output of abaca this year even after the country’s production for this particular high-value crop went up significantly in 2016.
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