MANILA, Philippines – If there’s a way to help revitalize local coffee farming — considering the many solutions this can generate for farmers, their families and the economy — it can be done best through a solid and well-planned partnership with the private sector, according to Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap.
“Collaborations with these groups are the best solutions to address some issues in agriculture. For example, when it comes to helping vegetable farmers in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental, the most effective approach for us was to work with the farmers themselves and establish a partnership with the Vegetable Production Council of Quezon, Laguna,” said Yap.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is working with experts from the private sector to help the coffee industry, which has been struggling with low productivity for the past 20 years.
Coffee industry needs boost
The Philippines used to be the world’s fourth biggest coffee exporter. Then from 1989 to 2002, market conditions changed and Philippine coffee production went down from around 70,000 tons of coffee a year to just 23,000 tons.
While Philippine coffee production has now improved to about 30,000 tons a year, the number is way below the 60,000 to 65,000 tons that the local market needs to meet the growing demand. That’s why the Philippines has been importing coffee from other countries like Vietnam.
“I think the only way to fully develop these commodities is to partner with the private sector. So when we fund Philippine coffee, we work with the private groups,” Yap said. In line with this, the DA has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc.
Yap stressed that working with the private sector is the only way for the Philippine government to ensure that the funds spent for Philippine agriculture are put to good use, adding that such a partnership also helps make agricultural projects sustainable.
A symbiotic relationship
Yap’s optimism about the future of the coffee industry is fuelled by yet another partnership with another private company. He presided over the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement between the DA and Nestlé Philippines, Inc., makers of the country’s leading coffee brand, Nescafé.
The MOA commits the DA and Nestlé Philippines, Inc. to a joint venture to help accelerate the growth of the local coffee industry, particularly for Robusta coffee.
Under the MOA, the DA and Nestlé will undertake a “joint technical and commercial cooperation and scientific exchange program that encompasses projects for the development of the coffee industry.”
Such programs include the joint development of green coffee production and marketing; expansion/development of areas for new coffee plantings; rehabilitation of coffee farms; establishment of coffee gardens and nurseries; and tissue culture centers for somatic embryogenesis.
Yap sees the MOA as an opportunity to revive local coffee farming because it gives farmers the chance to secure sustainable earnings which makes import substitution possible.
“I believe that the correct technology increases yield by minimum 30 percent. You will either reduce loss by a good percentage or increase productivity, he said, adding “If our farmers become confident that earnings from coffee farming are sustainable, I’m sure our importation is going to tap down and we can begin to replace our coffee imports with local grown coffee and our importation will be substituted. That, for me is very critical. Once we solve the income problem of the farmers, import substitution can and will happen. That means Filipino farmers get a chance to make money out of Philippine coffee. That also means foreign exchange savings for the country.” –(The Philippine Star)