Abaca producers see bigger demand for virus gear material


Posted at May 28 2020 09:54 AM

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The Philippines stands to gain from a spike in demand for abaca, a banana fiber that can be used as raw material for safety gear against the novel coronavirus, an industry leader said Thursday.

Even before the pandemic, there is a supply deficit of 100,000 to 125,000 metric tons for abaca which the Philippines exports to manufacturers of specialty non-woven fabrics in Europe, China and Japan, said Kennedy Costales, executive director of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.
The sturdy fiber is ideal for making face masks, lab gowns, and head and shoe covers -- demands for which spiked as COVID-19 cases spread, he said.

"Nagkaroon ng pandemic ngayon, nakilala ang abaca," he told DZMM. "The whole world is now our customer... We're rushing to plant more."

(The abaca became better known because of the pandemic.)

Fifty-two of the country's 81 provinces produce abaca. Most of the 142,000 hectares of hemp farmland is in Bicol Region, he said.

The Philippines accounts for about 85 percent of the abaca market, followed by Ecuador at 14 percent and Costa Rica at 1 percent, he said.

DZMM, May 28, 2020