From field to fiber - The process

Abaca - The plant

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.

Every weave in your carpet is a story

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.

Growing and harvesting

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.

Abaca Harvesting Process - Cleaning


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.

Abaca Harvesting Process - Topping
Abaca Harvesting Process - Tumbling


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.

Abaca Harvesting Process - Tuxying

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.

Abaca knowledge

Creating Abaca Fibres

Extracting the fibres

Abaca Harvesting Process - Extracting the fibres After tuxying, farmers can start extracting the fibre. The process has to be done as soon as possible to prevent discolouration of the tuxies. There are 3 fibre extraction methods: manual or hand stripping, spindle stripping, and decortication. All of which are labourious and require serious skills and mastery.

Drying process

Abaca Harvesting Process - Drying the fibres Abaca has to be dry before storing. It has to be thoroughly air-dried or sun-dried for a couple of days to avoid fungal and bacterial growth, which can affect the fibre quality.

Grading and baling

Abaca Harvesting Process - Grading and baling There are three fibre grade classes depending on the manner of extraction: hand-stripping, spindle-stripping, or decortication. Quality depends on colour, texture, fibre length, strength, and cleaning, which directly results from the stripping method and knifes used. The highest grade of abaca is fine, lustrous, light beige, and incredibly strong. After that, abaca goes for baling using pressing machines.

Sustainable: the natural choice

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.