The members of the National Banner Program Committee on High-Value Crops-Fiber Crops advocated the strengthening of the local abaca industry rather than venture on industrial hemp in the country at a virtual meeting conducted on April 23, 2021.

A unanimous decision amongst the committee members to focus on the funding of the development and strengthening of the local abaca industry instead of taking chance into the industrial hemp was reached as their position on the House Bill 1223 also known as the “Industrial Hemp Research Act of 2019” (see for more info). It was also agreed that updates on the abaca industry should be a permanent topic on the agenda of the succeeding meetings.

“We control 85% of the world abaca requirements. We must leverage on this advantage instead of competing in a highly volatile market of industrial hemp,” Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA) Executive Director Kennedy Costales emphasized during the meeting.

A project dubbed as “Abaca Free Farmers Social Enterprise Project” was also presented by PhilFIDA which is a center that includes logistic equipment, stripping and decorating machines, drying facilities, storage, bunkhouse, trading facilities, and farm tools which aims to empower abaca farmers to become a part of the entire value chain instead of being just mere farmers. This will eliminate the middlemen which results in higher earnings for the farmers and eliminate unnecessary layers in the value chain that jacks up the prices.

A pilot center of the said project will be established in Catanduanes for 2021. PhilFIDA will initially monitor and manage the said center which will eventually be transferred to the farmer organizations/cooperatives after three to five years. Each center costs PhP25 million (M).

The PhilFIDA also presented its plan and budget proposal for FY 2022 amounting to PhP1,978,618,000 which also covers other fibers under the locally-funded program such as “Tikog” and others. The committee approved a resolution recommending the endorsement and approval of the proposed budget to the Department of Agriculture.

The committee was informed that PhilFIDA is in the list of agencies that will not be devolved under the Mandanas Ruling according to a specialist from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). ###