TACLOBAN CITY – The drive to plant abaca plants under coconut trees has already covered 125 hectares in Eastern Visayas, the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) reported on Wednesday.
The intercropping project has significantly expanded this year after a partnership with the local government of Maasin City in Southern Leyte on May 14, said PhilFIDA regional director Wilardo Sinahon.
At least 100 hectares of coconut farms in Maasin City have been identified for expansion of abaca plantation and will cover the villages of Basak, Canyu-om, Lonoy, and Tigbawan in Maasin City.
PhilFIDA distributed 100 digging bars and 100 bolos with scabbard to farmer-beneficiaries.
The agency launched the coconut-abaca intercropping project on Oct. 15, 2020 through a turnover of abaca planting materials in Hinunangan, Southern Leyte.
The project expanded to farms in the towns of Abuyog, Leyte; Catubig, Northern Samar; Macarthur, Leyte; and Burauen, Leyte.
“We have seen some farms where coconut and abaca grow together, but these are located in upland and far-flung areas. Also, there has been an intensive promotion of intercropping cacao, coffee, or banana in coconut farms. It’s high time to plant abaca under in coconut since the fiber is a shade-loving plant,” Sinahon said in a phone interview.
The project is in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority and local government units.
Eastern Visayas is one of the abaca-producing areas in the country with about 20,000 hectares of land devoted to abaca production. The region produces 9,000 metric tons of abaca fiber every year.
Abaca fiber is now in demand in the global market due to its application in various products such as electronics, health, and medical products like face masks and personal protective equipment.
Abaca, known as Manila hemp, is considered the strongest of natural fibers. For decades, abaca fibers are extensively used to produce ropes, woven fabrics, and tea bags, among others. (PNA)