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Manila Hemp - Abaca
MANILA HEMP (Abaca)

"Abaca plants numerous by-products are created and marketed worldwide.  The plant is transformed into creative expressions of arts and crafts and industrial innovations. The plant fiber and its seed has unique uses. The different parts of the abaca plant has integrated uses. The process of extracting the fiber and its different grades and classifications are so unique. 

The Philippine manufacturers, exporters, designers, engineers, traders, and consumers are projecting global trends and prospects of the abaca industry - that with the artistic craftsmanship and ingenuity of Filipinos in the use of abaca fiber the industry will prosper."

(Abaca Plant)

Abaca, known worldwide as Manila hemp is indigenous to the Philippines.There are two countries, which are the main exporters of abaca worldwide, i.e. the Philippines and Ecuador, mainly due to the favorable climatic conditions and volcani soils, which are excellent for successful Abaca cultivation.While Philippines export an increasing volume of processed abaca products, Ecuador markets mainly raw fiber. The structure of the abaca supply chain in both countries is of quite some impact to farmers and raw material producers.

Abaca is used for the manufacture of specialty papers for tea bags, sausage casings, cigarette papers, currency notes and security papers, plug wrap filters, among others.Specialty papers account for more than 80% of global consumption.Also for ropes, twines, marine cordage, file folders, x-ray negative, medical gas masks, diapers, bed sheets, stationeries, bags, hammocks, hand woven fabrics, wire insulators and wire cables.
Abaca farmers harvest 18 to 24 months after planting and conduct subsequent harvests at three to four-month intervals.The plant is propagated through its suckers.It is ready for harvest when all the leaves have been formed from the stem and flower buds develop.The process of harvesting involves cutting down the plant at the base of the petiole and extracting the fiber from the leaf sheaths. Fibers recovered may vary from 1.5 to 2% by weight of the freshly cut stalks.The stripped fibers are dried (sun-dried or air-dried) before storage.

The growing concern for environmental protection and forest conservation has provided more opportunities for natural fibers like abaca.It is expected that demand would be long-term due to the growing popularity of environment-friendly materials, especially in developed countries.

Philippines supplied 97% of the total abaca requirement worldwide from 1994-1998 while Ecuador supplied the remaining 3%.  In the Philippines, industry is thriving with the availability of large area suited for abaca production, widespread ecological adaptation, wide range of potential users and applications, and available technologies for abaca cultivation and fiber production.  However, there are threatening factors such as susceptibility of varieties to various diseases and particularly in the Philippines, most of the plantations are already old and destroyed due to typhoons as the plantations are situated in areas often hit by this problem.  Compared to the advantages given for the Abaca production in the Philippines, Ecuador is in a position to produce abaca with better and more consistent fiber quality than that of Philippine abaca and Ecuador recently makes efforts to expand its production to 1,000-1,500 kilos of abaca per hectare.  Compared to Ecuador, the Philippines produce only an average of 600-650 kilos/hectare.  Cheaper substitute products like rayon, kenaf and sisal pose another competition for the demand for abaca.

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Uses/Applications

Abaca is processed into cordage, pulp and specialty paper and fibercrafts including handwoven fabric.  Below is a summary table on the uses of abaca:
 
1.
Cordage, Ropes and Twines        
 
           
   
     
   
Cordage
Rope
Twine
     
 
           
 
2.
Pulp and Specialty Paper        
 
   
(S2 Grade-electrolytic condenser paper, high grade decorative paper, Bible paper, dissolving pulp; JK Grade-tea bag, coffee filter, meat and sausage casings, special art paper, cable insulation paper, adhesive tape paper, lens tissue, mimeograph stencil base tissue, carbinizing tissue; Y2 Grade-currency paper, checks, cigarette paper, vacuum cleaner bag, abrasive base paper, weatherproof bristol, map, chart, diploma paper; AllGrades-handmade paper; S2, I, G, JK Grades-nonwovens)
   
Pulp
         
               
 
3.
Fiber Crafts    
4.
Textiles / Fabric  
 
     
   
 
     
   
Fiber Craft
     
Textile
               
 
5.
Abaca Furniture  
6.
Abaca Yarn
 
           
 
 
 
   
A variety of furnitures made from Abaca
Manila Yarn
 
     

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