Abaca, also known as Manila Hemp, is a species of the Musaceae family of banana plants. The leaves are tapering, narrow and glossy-green with pointed end petioles. Its pseudostem can grow up to 6.5 m and is built of 10-25 sheaths that grow from a central core, so that the oldest sheaths are located at the stalk periphery.
Abaca is indigenous to the Philippines whose warm, wet climate and volcanic soils are particularly suited to its cultivation. Its commercial production has always been centred here. Abaca has been a source for natural fibre bundle extraction for centuries. It was used to fabricate cordage, ropes and cables, but also woven textiles, coiled baskets, bags, laces, hats and furniture were manufactured from Abaca.
Abaca fibres are undeniably favourable especially when it comes to quality and strength. With lignin content as high as 15%, it is
prized as the strongest among natural fibres for its great mechanical strength, resistance to saltwater damage and long fibre
length – up to 3 m. Abaca is considered the strongest of natural fibres being three times stronger than cotton and two times stronger than sisal fibres.
Abaca fibre is one of the sturdiest natural fibres.
Rugs made from woven Abaca fibres are, due to its strength, natural colour palette and high gloss, a sought-after product. It outperforms all of the other natural fibres, such as: Sisal, Coir, Henequin and Hemp.
Growth period for abaca plant is anywhere between 1-2 years. Within this time plant produces the fibre bundles suitable for production.
Farmers harvest abaca every 3-8 months manually, using sharp machetes.
The Harvest process involves
- Cleaning, topping, tumbling, tuxying
- Fibre Extraction Process
- Drying Process
- Grading and Baling Process.
Farmers clear the base of the stalk (leaf sheath) of dried leaves, weeds and grass to keep the plant healthy and viable.
Farmers remove leaves from the stalk using a sharp, curved knife fastened at the tip of a long pole. This process eases the harvesting process and minimises damage on other plants.
Tumbling is cutting the abaca stalk at the base, using a very sharp ‘bolo’. After tumbling, farmers pile the cut stalks together, ready for tuxying.
Tuxying is separating the outer layer from the inner layer of the stalk. This process has to be done as soon as possible to prevent discolouration of the tuxies and therefore the downgrade of the fibre.
Every group of tuxies produces a different grade of fibre. The outer layer tuxies will be more brown, the middle layer ones - more light green with purple streaks and the inner layers are more ivory or white.
Definition of Abaca
A strong fiber obtained from the leafstalk of a banana (Musa textiles) native to the Philippines.
Abaca is prized for its great mechanical strength, resistance to saltwater damage, and long fibre length – up to 3 m. The best grades of abaca are fine, lustrous, light beige in colour and very strong.
Abaca is native to the Philippines and is one of the country's 35 fibercrops. It is considered as the “strongest natural fiber in the world” by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA).Philippine Consulate General
Abaca originates mainly from the Philippines and can grow without any artificial help or fertilizer.
As there is no intensive cultivation required, the soil will hardly be exhausted. Other places in the world do not have this prerequisite condition; an
important basis for sustainability.
Abaca cultivation is also environmentally friendly. Intercropping Abaca in former monoculture plantations and rainforest areas, particularly with coconut palms, can assist in erosion control and biodiversity rehabilitation. Planting Abaca can also minimize erosion and sedimentation problems in coastal areas, which are important breeding places for sea fishes. The water holding capacity of the soil will be improved and floods and landslides will also be prevented. Abaca waste materials are used as organic fertilizer.
This allows for Abaca scoring much higher compared with all other fibres on all seven Higg Materials Sustainability Index [MSI] areas. The Higg Index is a cradle-to-gate material scoring tool using a life cycle assessment approach to engage product design teams and our global value chain in environmental sustainability.