Govt aid for local-coffee growers pushed

Published by rudy Date posted on July 2, 2010

A non-government organization advocating the promotion of local coffee varieties is calling on the new government to help the domestic coffee industry.

“We hope that the Aquino administration will continue to support our programs, which aim for coffee self-sufficiency,” Pacita Juan, Philippine Coffee Board co-chairman, told an exclusive roundtable with reporters and editors of The Manila Times on Thursday.

“We Filipinos drink a lot of coffee,” Juan said, adding that Filipinos annually consume a total of about 65,000 metric tons of coffee.

But, Juan said, local farmers could only supply about less than a third of the domestic demand.
The Philippines, she added, now imports over $4-billion worth of coffee from neighboring Vietnam and Indonesia, which are among the top five coffee-producing countries in the world.

“Asia is a great place to grow coffee,” Juan said, but unfortunately, she added, the Philippines could not take advantage of this conducive environment.

Juan said that the prevailing colonial mentality among Filipino coffee drinkers as well as farmers has nipped in the bud the potentials of what was once one of the country’s top exports.

“Some Filipinos think it’s cool to drink imported coffee. Even local coffee farmers would sell their harvests in order to buy instant coffee products,” she noted.

She said that up to 90 percent of domestic coffee production are being sold to manufacturers of instant coffee.

The country has vast tracts of land all over the archipelago wherein coffee varieties such as Robusta, Excelsa, Arabica and Liberica (or more popularly known as the “Barako”) could grow in abundance, Juan said. “Coffee can grow anywhere in the country where elevation is over 300 meters.”

But Juan said that government assistance needs to be in place to support private sector initiatives—such as projects spearheaded by the Philippine Coffee Board.

“We need about P100 million annually to support the farmers—to provide seeds, to train them, to help rehabilitate and rejuvenate their farms.”

Two years ago, the Philippine Coffee Board was granted by the Department of Agriculture a P50-million seed fund, but Juan said that while the funding benefited about a tenth of the up to 70,000 coffee farmers across the country, the government could help more.

The Philippine Coffee Board had come up with a long-term strategic plan targeting coffee self-sufficiency by 2015.

Juan said that investments in coffee production could create at least four jobs per hectare of land planted with the crop.

If the government would back up the Philippine Coffee Board’s endeavors, she added, young people would be enticed to plant coffee.

She also noted that most of today’s coffee farmers are over 50 years of age. “If the government helps in the coffee movement, the younger generation would see hope and continue to farm.”

Juan said that a branding scheme should be adopted and value-added coffee should be churned out in order to boost the export potentials of our regional coffee products. “We should aspire to be known in the world market as a coffee grower.”

At present, the country’s coffee exports remain informal and minimal, she added.

The Philippine Coffee Board every October holds a coffee festival at the Ayala Center in Makati City to boost awareness and showcase the unique taste of locally grown coffee.

This year’s coffee festival will run from October 7 to 21. –Ben Arnold O. De V Era, Reporter, Manila Times

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