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Abaca Fiber for The Pulp and Paper Industry and Allied Products Development

Background

This program supports the plans and strategies of the Philippine Agriculture (PA) 2020 produced by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and the proposed roadmap of the Philippine Paper Manufacturers Association, Inc (PPMAI).

The PA 2020 lists industry strategy plans for several agricultural products of which abaca is one. The plan also identifies enabling strategies, namely, technology development, investments and governance reforms. Under technology development, one focus is on processing, value-adding or new product development and distribution.

On the other hand, PPMAI recently submitted to the Board of Investments (BOI) a Proposed Roadmap for the Pulp and Paper Industry. The proposal includes, among others, the establishment of non-wood pulp mills in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to process abaca, banana, rice straw, bagasse, and other annual fiber crops.

The local pulp and paper industry depends heavily on imported recycled paper, as well as imported virgin fiber, for its paper products. A certain amount of virgin fiber is necessary to enhance properties of paper from recycled paper as fiber quality diminishes with each recycling. In its proposed Road Map for the Pulp and Paper Industry, the PPMAI has identified as one major problem the absence of a local source of virgin wood pulp for the industry’s virgin fiber requirement. Moreover, there is increasing pressure to implement regulations on the use of plastic-based materials, such as those for packaging, for already known adverse impact on the environment. Currently, the country imports volumes of paper bags or paper for bags for this purpose.

PPMAI (2012) reports that in a span of a decade, 2001-2011, the number of paper mills in the country went from 43 to 24, with production decreasing by 1% per year from 1.056 million MT to 0.950 million MT. Domestic consumption, increasing at an average of 2.2% per year and through the years consistently greater than local production, has always been addressed by imports. All recycle-based, most of the paper mills manage to run on small and slow old machines (50-60 tons/day), high energy costs, increasing competition for raw material (wastepaper and virgin fiber), and several other limitations. Only two mills, one producing newsprint, printing and writing paper; and the other, corrugating medium and testliner, have developed facilities capable of running 70 and more tons/day.

The PPMAI roadmap also targets abaca pulp-based security and specialty paper production. Banknote or currency note is circulating money or legal tender, released by a nation’s central bank. It is a medium of exchange and a measure of value in trading, commerce and industry. As per information provided by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP 2013), the Philippines banknote paper consumption for the last five (5) years is approximately 15,000 MT while future demand for the next 10 years is estimated to be tripled at approximately 46,800 MT. For passport and sensitized bond papers, the country’s future demand is approximately 637 MT for 15.3 M booklets.

It should be noted that all these are imported by BSP although it requires that these should contain a certain proportion of the Philippine’s abaca fiber in the base paper used. Abaca fiber is exported mainly in the form of pulp which is processed by some countries into specialty paper such as tea bags, cigarette paper, meat sausage casings, filter paper, and security paper including their own currency notes (like Japan) or for export of such papers for other countries like the Philippines.

Thus, despite the “global supplier of abaca” title, the country’s security/specialty paper requirement is imported. With an average production (2002-2011) of about 67,000 MT, abaca fiber It is exported in various forms; raw fiber, pulp, cordage, yarns/fabrics, and fiber crafts, for an annual average export earnings of about US$89 M, the bulk (about 60%) of which is due to pulp.

In light of the above, the PPMAI’s roadmap envisions the commercial utilization of abaca fiber as reinforcement for packaging and writing papers, the production of specialty and currency base paper, and the preparation of cellulose derivatives, micro- and nanocrystalline cellulose for high-end products. To this end, PPMAI is banking on DOST-FPRDI and other concerned agencies for the conduct of research and development activities and the corresponding technical assistance for the adoption of developed technologies.

Goal

To revitalize the paper industry while enhancing the abaca pulp industry through S & T interventions utilizing abaca for paper and other high end products based on the proposed roadmap of the Philippine Paper Manufacturers Association, Inc.

Objectives

This program shall provide the S & T interventions to (1) improve properties of paper from low-grade recycled/waste paper using abaca as reinforcement; (2) develop abaca pulp-based specialty and security paper; (3) expand utility of abaca fiber by preparation of purified pulp and extraction of its micro/nano cellulose for high-end products; and (4) assist the pulp and paper industry in walking through its roadmap.

Priority Areas

  1. Increasing Industry Competitiveness
  2. Countryside Development and Inclusive Growth

Research Projects

  1. Investigation on replacing/augmenting softwood pulp with abaca pulp in packaging and printing/writing papers (2014 to 2015)
  2. Utilization of abaca pulp and other locally sourced fibers for the local production of specialty paper(2014 to 2015)
  3. Processing of nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) from purified pulp of abaca (2014 to 2016)
  4. Development of cellulose derivatives from abaca dissolving pulp (2016 to 2017)
  5. Development of paper and other high-end products with functional properties (2016 to 2018)
  6. Assessment, pilot scale studies / technology transfer of developed technologies (2015 to 2017)

Deliverables

Science-based technologies and protocols for:

  • Increased production of quality paper and paper products
  • Processing of purified pulp and micro/nanocrystalline cellulose from abaca for high end products
  • New functional products using purified pulp/cellulose derived from abaca

State-of-the-art facilities and capabilities for:

  • Collaborative undertaking between the abaca pulp industry and the paper industry towards moving up the value chain of their respective products to attain global competitiveness