MANILA, Philippines – Officers of the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. are urging the Department of Agriculture (DA) yesterday to immediately release the remaining P125 million earmarked for the development of the coffee industry.
In a press briefing during a coffee seminar at the Le Bistro Café in Makati, officers of the Philippine Coffee Board led by Pacita Juan, Ma. Theresa Capellan and Glicerio Lumagbas stressed the need to immediately assist the local Philippine coffee industry which faces a drastic cut in production due to the devastation wrought by Pepeng in the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
The coffee board also urged the DA and other concerned government agencies to ensure the continued viability of the remaining 8,000 hectares of coffee farms in Cavite as part of the watershed protection of Metro Manila.
Capellan said the coffee trees in Cavite help absorb water and prevent run-off that could flood Metro Manila.
The coffee board officials noted that of the P150 million allocated by the DA for the coffee industry, only P25 million so far has been released. Capellan said, this has helped fund 1,350 coffee farmers tilling 1,350 hectares of demo coffee farms.
Lumagbas estimates that the Cordillera region accounts for around 20 percent of total coffee production in the country.
The coffee board still has to assess the damage wrought to coffee farms in Benguet province which was hardest hit.
While Luzon only accounts for about 20 percent of total coffee bean production, Capellan explained that the rest of the country, particularly Mindanao, would need assistance to fill in the gap that the loss in Luzon has created.
The coffee board, Capellan said, is one of the major conduits of providing such assistance of the coffee sector. Coffee board officials said the P150 million granted last year by the DA for the coffee sector is miniscule as there are around 75,000 coffee farmers tilling 75,000 hectares.
To adequately assist all 75,000 coffee farmers, the coffee board officials said, the sector would need funding of at least P200 million annually.
Because of the lower than expected production this year, the coffee board now expects higher coffee importations which cost around P3 billion a year.
The coffee board is hoping that the balance of P125 million could be released by next month even as the DA had previously agreed in principle to provide another P200 million in budgetary support next year to help revive the local coffee industry.
The P200 million is earmarked for release in 2010. –Marianne V. Go (The Philippine Star)