Production Guide on Abaca, Part 1 Primer

Abaca (Musa textiles Nee) or Manila hemp, as it is known in international trade, is endemic in the Philippines. About 84% of the world’s supply of abaca comes from the Philippines. Most of these come from the abaca-growing regions like Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao. Abaca fiber is considered as the strongest among natural fibers. The length of the fiber varies from three to nine feet or more, depending on the height of the plant and the age of the leafsheath. The color of the fiber ranges from ivory white to light and dark brown.

Abaca has been grown in the Philippines for centuries and was known to the Filipinos long before the Spanish occupation. The crop has been proven to be profitable and has continuously provided income to many Filipinos, especially those in the uplands of Mindanao, for their subsistence.

Abaca (Musa textilis Nee) is a member of the musaceae family to which the banana also belongs. The resemblance of abaca to banana is close. However, there are basic differences. Abaca stalks are more slender, the leaves are smaller, narrower and more pointed than those of banana. A distinguising dark line on the right hand side of the upper surface of the leaf blade is pronounced in abaca. Fruits of abaca are smaller non-edible and contain many seeds.

Opportunities, Prospects and Developments

The abaca industry is expected to continue making a stronghold in both the domestic and international markets. Below is a summary of the opportunities, prospects and developments in the abaca industry.

  • Strong demand for abaca as a result of the expanding market for specialty papers for food packaging as in tea bags and meat casings, filter papers, non-wovens and disposables.
  • Growing demand to conserve forest resources and to protect the environment from problems posed by non-biodegradable materials, particularly plastics, contributed to the growing demand for natural fibers like abaca.
  • Due to the environmental degradation, Japan, which is one of the major abaca consumers, is now replacing PVC with natural fibers or materials free from chlorine.
  • Development of new uses for abaca such as textile materials for the production of pinukpok or as blending material, with silk, pina or polyester, in the production of high-end fabrics.
  • Growing demand for handmade paper as art media, photo frames, albums, stationery, flowers, all purpose cards and decoratives.

Recommended Varieties for Mindanao

1. Tangongon -large, vigorous, and sturdy; grows well in
loamy clay soil with strong, heavy, coarse, lightly colored and hard to strip fibers; poor stooler and hills tend to “run out”; easily blown down because the roots are often push through the soil surface

2. Maguindanao- has large stalks; easily stripped white fibers; thrives well in sandy to light clay soils; sensitive to drought because of its scanty root system; stalks easily lodge; resistant to bunchy top and root rot diseases; remain productive for as long as 15 years.

3. Bungolanon – earlier maturing than Tangongon and Maguindanao; grows on a wide range of soil fertility; good root system; more resistant to drought compared to Maguindanao; does not lodge easily; heavy stooler with about 30 to 60 stools/hill; white and fine fibers; yield however, declines 5 to 6 years after planting.

Soils and Climate for Abaca Production

Abaca has been found growing in virtually all types of soils and climate in the Philippines. But it is found most productive in areas where the soil is volcanic in origin, rich in organic matter. loose, friable, and well-drained, clay loam type.

It requires a water table of 80 cm with 60-80% saturation and a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Undulating or rolling to hilly or mountainous areas less than 500 m above sea level with deep surface soil with slopes from 200 to 600 are ideal for abaca production. For normal growth of abaca plants, the soil must contain adequate amounts of organic matter, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Abaca requires warm and humid climate for optimum growth and productivity. Though the optimum temperature requirement for abaca has not been fully determined, it grows in areas with temperatures of 20°C during cool months and 25°C during warm months. A relative humidity of 78 to 85% and a fairly-distributed rainfall through out the year are conducive to good growth. The area must be free from cyclonic winds and typhoons, if not the plants must be provided with cover trees or windbreaks to dissipate the force.

Methods of Propagation

  • Seedpieces (corms)
  • Suckers
  • Seeds
  • Tissue Culture

For more information, contact:

Fiber Industry Development Authority
1424 Asiatrust Bank Annex Bldg, Quezon Ave., Quezon City
Phones: (02) 373-7489/9241
Email: [email protected]



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