Yap eyes rejuvenation of coffee farming industry

Published by rudy Date posted on October 19, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap sees a bright future for coffee farming in the Philippines — despite the setbacks of the past two decades — and has set his sights on reviving the coffee industry.

Yap — who is actively working with farmers and private organizations to improve the quality and quantity of yields in all sectors of agriculture — believes that reviving the coffee industry will bring many advantages to the entire country.

From 1989 to 2002, the Philippine coffee industry suffered a huge drop in production. From a global coffee exporter during the 70s and 80s, producing more than 70,000 tons of coffee (about half of that amount for export), the Philippines has become an importer of coffee. Local production hit rock-bottom in 1989-2002, when only 23,000 tons were being produced annually.

Today, the local demand for coffee has increased to about 60-65,000 tons a year, but the local production only reaches about 30,000 tons. This is why the Philippines has to import some 30-35,000 tons of coffee (primarily from Vietnam) at a cost of at least P1 billion a year.

More than 90 percent of local demand is mostly for the coffee variety Robusta as majority of Filipinos are accustomed to its taste and aroma.

The drop in production has also taken its toll on coffee farms themselves. Many have closed down and the fertile land sold to real estate developers. Sons and daughters of coffee farmers leave for other professions. It’s a sad reality that challenges the local coffee industry.

Growth opportunity

Yap says there is a lot of room for growth for the coffee industry because of the big demand locally. He points out that reviving the coffee industry would not only benefit coffee farmers in terms of income, but also result in foreign exchange savings for the country.

“Not only is there a great potential for growth, but there’s also the benefit to our local coffee farmers. Helping them increase production to meet the local demand would naturally increase their income. This would result in a better quality of life not only for some 30,000 coffee farmers and their families but also for all the other workers who are dependent on the coffee industry for their livelihood.”

And based on the Secretary’s track record, including his handling of the food crisis in the recent past, the country has reason to be optimistic that his plans for the coffee industry will also reap great benefits.

Yap confirms that in general, the agricultural climate is good and the landscape is brimming with opportunities for growth.

And as far as local coffee farming is concerned, Yap is optimistic that it would be further strengthened to the point where the country would lessen, if not eliminate, the need for coffee imports.

Partnership with private sector

For Yap, venturing into partnerships with the private sector is one of the best decisions to make when addressing a crisis concerning food production.

Recently, he led the Department of Agriculture in signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Nestlé Philippines Inc. (NPI), makers of the country’s leading coffee brand, NESCAFÉ, as part of efforts to rejuvenate local coffee farming.

With the MOA in place, the two parties will embark on a collaborative effort to help arrest the decline in green coffee production in the Philippines to meet the Filipinos strong demand and preference for the Robusta variety.

According to Yap, he is excited about this collaboration because Nestle is one of the world’s most respected food and beverage companies.

“It also adds luster to the partnership when your partner is a very serious global player,” he says.

Yap said he expects a lot from the partnership with the private sector—from marketing and technical expertise to innovation and technology.

“I want to tell our farmers that they are outstanding but they need to be open to new learning possibilities. Continue to learn and aspire, study the market and see what the market wants. Agriculture does not begin and end with just production,” Yap says. –(The Philippine Star)

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