BAGUIO CITY – Philippine coffee is a much sought after product among Filipino-Americans in the United States, but an official of the Philippine Coffee Board (PCB) said the country has yet to produce enough to satisfy the growing demand.
“[Filipino-Americans] who open coffee shops in the United States like barako [native coffee], but our problem is we cannot sell them all our coffee. We only produce only 35,000 tons [a year],” Emmanuel Torrejon, the board’s Northern Luzon coordinator, said in a recent briefing here.
Torrejon said the challenge for coffee growers was to fill the demand, both here and abroad, since the Philippines only produces 35,000 tons and still imports coffee.
He said the board also discovered a demand for the native Arabica coffee from Filipino communities in the Middle East.
Though industry players want to penetrate the Southeast Asian market, Torrejon said the country’s production volume was only a fraction of what other countries, like Indonesia and Vietnam, produce.
He said Indonesia produces 250,000 tons yearly while Vietnam produces a million tons.
“But the Philippines has potential… the local coffee industry is up to the challenge,” he said.
Richard Abellon, coordinator of the Cordillera Regional Arabica Coffee Council (CRACC), said the only way to compete in the global market is for local growers to be “culturally grounded.”
He said local farmers should consider the industry as “sources of life and livelihood.” Farmers, he said, should not sacrifice the environment and their indigenous practices while they try to increase production.
The Regional Development Council in the Cordillera said the Department of Agriculture has identified Arabica coffee as one of the top five priority commodities in the region.
A statement from the RDC said the region has 7,781 hectares devoted to coffee plantations and another 3,000 hectares of potential expansion areas.
Pedro Jerry Baliang, DA assistant regional director, said the PCB was helping rehabilitate coffee plantations in the region to help fill in the demand by 2015.
Pedro Pinos-an, DA Cordillera agriculturist, said the DA was rehabilitating 552 hectares of Arabica coffee plantations in the region.
The DA also aims to develop 40,000 hectares of new Arabica coffee plantations in Benguet, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, Abra and Apayao.
Pinos-an said these efforts would help local farmers increase their income and make the Cordillera the Arabica coffee capital of the country.
He said Cordillera coffee growers were also trying to produce other coffee varieties like Excelsa, Liberica and Robusta. –Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon