How to adopt a coffee tree

NOURISHING THE FUTURE The Philippine Coffee Board is encouraging more farmers to stay true to the coffee culture. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

October is also known for another drink. We’ve been celebrating Filipino coffee ever since President Fidel Ramos declared October Coffee Month in 1997. In malls, promotional activities include free coffee every day for two to three weeks.

The nonprofit Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) was established in 2002 by then Secretary of Agriculture Cito Lorenzo as the National Coffee Development Council. It was later incorporated as a non-profit organization with the sole mission of promoting Filipino coffee. At the time, consumers did not know we were a coffee producing country, let alone what a coffee tree looked like. This era started a kind of coffee revolution in the domestic arena.

The Philippines Statistics Authority, however, reported last year that while coffee consumption has continued to rise, it has been largely served by imports from Vietnam and Indonesia.

In terms of consumer behavior, the “3 in 1” coffee sachet has become the practical way to take your morning infusion. Instant coffee has become an essential commodity that even the Ministry of Commerce and Industry monitors price trends, as have rice and canned goods.

Brew at home

As coffee shops mushroomed across the country, increasing the consumption of roasted and ground products, farmers got better prices for their products. It also helped the PCBI to partner with the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), which introduced the Q coffee grading system, which resulted in the very first competition called Kape Pilipino in 2017.

The production of “quality” coffee increased and consumers turned to Filipino coffee in cafes and online stores. The demand for this category has increased, purchase prices have increased and farmers have become more quality conscious.

When the pandemic forced many coffee shops to close, people turned to getting their caffeine fix at home, and a ‘home brewing’ culture became the order of the day. Consumption has increased further, so farmers are happy to get better prices.

The problem

But even with growing consumption, why is the Filipino farmer still poor?

The main problem is performance. Our national average yield is 700 kilos per hectare, while Vietnam averages 3,000 to 5,000 kilos per hectare.

The second challenge is logistics. A farmer in the remote province of Quirino will have to transport his coffee to the nearest consolidator, perhaps in Ifugao or Kalinga, or hope to find a buyer through the Ministry’s Agriculture and Marketing Support Service. of Agriculture. This takes away its “mark”, or the origin of the coffee. So how do you close the import gap?

First, we need to plant more trees. Coffee trees can last 40 to 50 years.

The private sector is encouraged to do the planting so that there is less paperwork on the production of seedlings, establishment of nurseries and other obstacles to the expansion of coffee areas.

Second, we need to increase the yield of existing coffee trees with the right application of organic fertilizers, which farmers can prepare themselves.

Third, rejuvenating old trees can also breathe new life into an aging tree.

With these challenges and other global issues like climate change and deforestation, there’s no better time to plant trees than today. And if we plant coffee, they can thrive well with tropical cash crops like bananas, papaya, pineapple, and peanuts. This means that farmers can have money while they wait for their coffee to bear fruit (usually two to four years depending on the variety). PCBI launches program called “Plant Coffee, Pilipinas!” »Where donors can choose from different sites designated by the group such as: Sagada, Province of the Mountain; Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya; Amadeo, Cavite; Iloilo; Western Negro; Cotabato South; Sultan Kudarat and Sulu. All of these sites will be monitored by member farmers who will sign a pledge form to assure donors that their “adopted” trees will be cared for until they bear fruit.

Coffee lovers who donate will “see” their trees via the GPS coordinates provided by the farmers. This is where technology and sustainability will work hand in hand.

To help farmers who want to learn the right way to process specialty coffee, a post-harvest processing seminar was held on October 16 via Zoom, led by CQI processor Robert Francisco, a well-known coffee expert. in the primary and secondary processing of beans.

For those who want to learn more about specialty coffee and how to taste or ‘tap’ coffee, another webinar titled ‘Basics of Coffee Sensoryity’ will be held on October 23 to help farmers or producers. to stand out, so to speak.

For the marketing of coffee at home and abroad, a special webinar from research firm Global Data will be held on October 26 also via Zoom with the cooperation of the Asean Coffee Federation (www.aseancoffee.org), of which PCBI is a active member.

Economy

So what is the coffee economy? Being known only as a producer of Robusta coffee, the Philippines is creating new demand for its other varieties like Liberica (or locally known as barako) or specialty Arabica. These have new demand in micro-markets like Switzerland, Sweden and Japan.

This way, farmers can get better prices rather than having to stick to cash commodity prices. In fact, Philippine specialty coffee prices are higher than world market prices, but domestic demand is still strong.

Coffee prices are inelastic (changes in world prices have little effect on demand) as more and more people get used to it regardless of the price.

We need to be aware of two markets: instant or soluble, and roast and ground (this includes specialty coffee). The latter gives farmers the opportunity to set the price of their coffee based on the effort and attention they give to their product. The first is not so selective, preventing growers from harvesting even unripe fruits, content to sell at commodity prices.

Are we hoping to close the import deficit and give billions of pesos to our Filipino coffee farmers instead? It starts with recognizing our strengths: heirloom varieties, organic fertilization and the continued growth of a specialty coffee market. For every consumer we convert to demand a good specialty coffee, more farmers will stay the course and produce better beans.

The promotion of Filipino coffee at home and abroad has prompted farmers to continue expanding their coffee areas. They just need a helping hand from the private sector. Note that the countries at the top of the production rankings even have subsidies.

Competing on prices without subsidies, the Philippine coffee farmer will always be successful with programs run by the private sector. Plant coffee, Philippines! INQ

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