Abaca, also called as manila hemp, is extracted from the leaf sheath around the trunk of Musa textilis, a type of banana plant that is mostly found in the Philippines and humid tropics. Harvesting and cultivating abaca is a labor-intensive process as the pulp is removed by cutting strips and scraping stalks. Fibers obtained from the process are then dried and removed. Abaca fiber has high strength and is used in the paper industry for making mimeograph mats and teabags. It is also used to make handicraft such as carpets, furniture, clothing, and bags. Abaca fiber is used in fishing nets, hawsers, and shipping lines due to beneficial properties such as flexibility, durability, and saltwater resistance. It is classified as a hard fiber along with sisal, coir, and henequin. In addition, abaca fiber is used in gifts, toys, and housewares. Furthermore, it is used as an alternative to glass fiber reinforced plastics components. Various local textile manufacturers use 30% to 50% of abaca in the production of maong (denim).
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Abaca is used in end-user industries such as fiber craft, paper & pulp, and cordage. In terms of consumption, pulp & paper was the largest end-user of abaca fiber followed by cordage and fiber craft industries in 2014. Wide application range of abaca fiber in the production of specialty paper is anticipated to be one of the key factors driving demand for abaca fibers in the paper & pulp industry. Increasing demand for cordage in the production of ropes used in ships and other industrial applications is expected to boost demand for abaca fiber during the forecast period. The automotive industry also uses natural rubber as filling material in hat racks, bolster, damping, interior trim parts, and parcel trays. Therefore, rising demand for natural fiber in the automotive industry and increasing automobile sales in developing nations such as China, India, and Brazil are anticipated to fuel the abaca fiber market during the forecast period. Combining abaca with silk has resulted in the production of an acceptable textile for wearing purposes.
Asia Pacific was the fastest-growing and largest market for abaca fibers in 2014. More than three-fourth of the total abaca is produced in the Philippines. Initiatives are taken by the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) to increase usage of abaca fibers and gain economic benefits for the nation. Additionally, abaca is rapidly replacing non-biodegradable polymers. More than half of the total abaca produced is exported from Philippines and Bangladesh to Europe, North America, China and Japan. The abaca plant is vulnerable to a number of pathogens. Hence, supply of abaca fibers fluctuates, thus acting as restraint for growth of the abaca fiber market.
Growth in the furniture industry is expected to drive the abaca fiber market in Asia Pacific during the forecast period. However, increasing environmental restrictions regarding the usage of non-biodegradable polymeric fibers is likely to act as an opportunity for the abaca fibers market during the forecast period. Research and development is being carried out to improve physical properties of abaca fibers. Abaca is mostly used in making teabags and cordage in Europe. Negligible amount of abaca fiber is used in Latin America and Middle East & Africa due to average demand from the end user industry.
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Key players in the abaca fiber market include Tag Fibers, Inc., Ching Bee Trading Corporation, MAP Enterprises, Selinrail International Trading, The Fiber World, Italfil Expo Bags Company Limited and Yzen Handicraft Export Trading.