MALAYBALAY CITY – Malaybalay City has focused on abaca production for more than a decade and the local abaca industry has made some headways, said Herculano Ronolo, city administrator and former coordinator of the city planning and development office.

He added that the city has focused the distribution of free abaca hills to five barangays namely Can-ayan, Kibalabag, Manalog, Capitan Anghel, Imbayao, and Mapayag.

In the Department of Trade and Industry’s profile of Bukidnon products, Malaybalay City’s entry for the One town-one product (OTOP) is abaca.

Ronolo said Malaybalay City has improved its production of abaca through promotion in areas traditionally producing it but had been hampered because of abaca diseases. But he could not quantify the production increase as of Wednesday afternoon.

He also cited that the city government has distributed looms to abaca farmers’ groups in the areas identified to be core abaca production villages.

The City Agriculture Office has also produced disease free abaca suckers using a plant tissue laboratory. The suckers were distributed to the farmers in villages identified as main producers of abaca.

Engr. Also Quimba, Provincial Agriculturist, said in a text message that Bukidnon abaca farmers common foe was a virus named alkoheres, carried by so-called musa insects.

The virus infects abaca bud until it rots. Abaca destroyed by the virus is characterized by wilted leaves.

Ronolo cited the problem of marketing and limited income for the farmers. He said farmers sold abaca fibers directly to buyers.

“We do not have a quiet improved local abaca industry yet,” he added.

He explained that in fiber trading, the farmers could not have enough leverage in pricing.

He said there is limited value-added in the farmers’ production because of lack of product upgrading. He cited that they needed updated technical intervention from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The farmers could not see abaca as a primary crop yet, he added, because right now they largely produce for the fiber buyers who dictate the prices.

“They still do not see fast and direct income opportunity from the industry yet,” he added.

He said most of them plant corn or other primary crops and treat abaca, a crop that dwells as undergrowth for forested areas, as a secondary crop.

He said the feasibility of income from abaca is also a factor of their productive skills.

Since they are not yet skillful in creative products, he added, their income depends largely on the sale of fiber.

Ronolo said the farmers were trained to extract quality fiber and to make hinabol or abaca fiber cloth.

“But they need to learn to craft innovative products and designs, too,” he said.

Ronolo told Bukidnon News he is looking at seeking technical intervention that facilitate local production of goods that are sellable in malls and other trading centers in Manila and other cities.

“That’s more than the usual products like hats, bags, and other usual products from abaca produced by local craft circles,” he said.

Ronolo vowed funding by the city government from the Gender and Development fund, which is  5 percent of the city’s annual budget for the holding of the training with DTI providing expertise. In 2011, the city has in internal revenue share of P766 million.

The City Agriculture Office, he added, has produced young abaca suckers locally through a plant tissue laboratory using disease free variety from Agusan del Norte.

The local abaca industry had been affected by a disease common to abaca plants in the 1990s.(Walter I. Balane)

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