Banana stalks, which used to be junked and allowed to rot in the plantations in the province, are now being turned into banana fiber. In particular, the pseudo-stem is a good source of silk-grade fiber, a commodity that Japan orders at a volume of five tons monthly.
Banana fiber is used for making fabrics, bags, various types of mats, interior decoration items, window blinds, cushion covers, bolster covers, table lamps, folders, currency paper, ornaments and novelty items, to name few. The products are completely eco-friendly and bio-degradable.
The farmers, who used to resist suggestions from the Department of Agriculture to make productive use of banana waste, began to change their mind when China imposed strict requirements for its import of bananas in 2011 because of quarantine issues.
According to Marsman Agrarian Reform Cooperative (Marbco) Chairman Avito Magdalaga, the farmers used to have a steady income from banana growing and thought “it would be a gamble on our part to invest in another activity especially since we lack the equipment and knowhow.”
With the shifts in market trends, they were constrained to diversify markets and products, with the help of the Department of Agriculture’s High Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP).
The farmers were sent to a field exposure trip to a banana cooperative in New Bataan town Compostela Valley to observe and gain basic knowledge on banana fiber production.
With technical help of production specialist Renato Amistad who also made available two decorticator machines and a brusher machine, the group began production.
After many initial attempts, experimentation and continuous refinement of techniques, the cooperative was finally able to product fiber that met Japanese standards.
In 2012, Marbco shipped a total of 15,543 kg of banana fiber which earned a total income of about P1.8 million