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How can we encourage the usage of sustainable fabrics?
Consumers now have this strong consciousness to using products or fabrics made of renewable resource like natural fibers. Hence, the handwoven eco-fabric is a statement in itself that could capture the interest of the buying public. Aggressive promotion is certainly needed to further create awareness for these natural fabrics not only as a clothing or fashion material but also as a material component for life style products for home, hotels and other establishments.
In the Philippines, we have a law, Republic Act 9242, “An Act Prescribing the Use of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics for Uniforms of Public Officials and Employees and for Other Purposes”. The law does not only encourage but compels everybody in the bureaucracy to use the fabrics made of abaca and other Philippine natural textile fibers for office uniforms and other purposes.
Do you feel that strong marketing and branding is required for natural fibers and fabrics?
Yes, because this creates strong recall and recognition among ultimate consumers. Aggressive marketing likewise creates awareness that could help stimulate demand for both natural fibers and fabrics. Having our farms accredited by a third party certifying body like Rainforest Alliance will also help in ensuring the marketability of our fibers and products in the international market.
What kind of innovations have been done recently in natural fabrics and what can we expect in the future?
The recent developments on the use of natural fabrics for textile is the incorporation of 40% abaca with 60% polyester for abaca jeans, and 10% abaca and 90% polyester for upper garments being manufactured by Asia Textile Mills. The abaca jeans are exported to Japan while the upper garments are distributed locally. The same mill produces functional textile with anti-microbial properties intended for clients abroad.
Future works are focused on the use of electrospun nanofibers to produce non-woven mats.
How has the Government of Philippines helped the people who are involved in the business of natural fibres?
The Government of the Philippines through the FIDA of the Department of Agriculture implements programs and projects supportive of the stakeholders in the fiber industry.
*On Production Support
o Provide technical assistance to fiber clientele.
o Production and distribution of healthy abaca planting materials
o Promote the mechanization of abaca fiber extraction through the establishment of postharvest centers’
o Spearhead disease control and management.
*On Research and Development
o Development of production technologies through the conduct of agricultural researches on crop production, crop improvement, crop protection and on agricultural engineering (soil and water & postharvest);
o Conduct research on the development of technologies on fiber processing and applications and on the improvement of fiber extraction process;
o Provide fiber quality testing.
*On Extension Support, Education and Training
o Strengthen farmers’ organization through the conduct of various trainings in partnership with Local Government Units (LGUs) State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and Private Groups.
o Farm or Business advisory on fiber production technology, credit facilitation and packaging of proposals;
o Provide technology information materials.
*On Market Development Services
o Aggressive market promotion of fibers and fiber –based products through participation in local and international trade fairs/exhibits and sponsorship of market –related events like fashion shows;
o Establish/strengthen market linkages between suppliers and buyers of fibers and fiber-based products;
o Update industry clients through dissemination of trade information and breakthroughs, conduct of stakeholders’ meetings and use of tri-media.
*On Regulatory Services
o Implements internationally accepted grading and classification standards for plant fibers;
o Strict enforcement of fiber grading standards through fiber inspection to strengthen the Philippine position in the international market;
o Issuance of licenses to fiber industry participants which include grading and baling establishments (GBEs), buying stations, trader exporter, local traders, fiber processors and fiber classifiers.
*On Plans and Policy
o Formulate policies and develop national development plans and projects based on the needs of the fiber industry;
o Strengthen partnership with LGUs & other institutions; &
o Provide industry information either electronically or thru FIDA website to update industry stakeholders on the status of fiber production and market developments.
Tell us something about the international business relationship of the Philippines’ fiber sector with other countries around the world.
The country has been exporting Philippine natural fibers and fiber products especially abaca to many countries for several decades now. We believe that being in the fiber business for so many years, the Philippines’ fiber sector enjoys a strong and fruitful business relationship with the rest of the world. Our natural fibers and products through the years, have gained a foothold in the world market which continue to further strengthen as more and more consumers are drawn to eco-friendly materials.
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