25 April 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

WHILE the Philippines consumes as much coffee as countries such as the United States, Brazil, Japan and the European Union (EU), the country is also looking to be one of the top producers of top-grade coffee around the world.

To make this a reality, President Duterte on March 7, 2017, signed the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022 to boost the country’s domestic coffee output in the next five years—a huge lift for coffee farmers, producers and traders.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is working closely with the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ensure the Philippine coffee industry would be at par with the world’s top producers such as Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and Honduras.

“We have to have a patriotic drive to encourage demand for Philippine coffee. We are encouraging local producers to expand coffee production to create the demand,” Lopez said.

The Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022 will guarantee a coffee industry that is cost-competitive, aligned with global-quality standards, reliable and environment-friendly, that will provide sustainable benefits to farmers, processors, traders, and exporters, and attain food security and poverty alleviation.

Coffee is the second most-traded commodity in the world and is grown in 50 countries along the equatorial zone called “The Bean Belt,” located between latitudes 25 degrees north and 30 degrees south. Interestingly, the Philippines lies within the Bean Belt.

Due to this advantageous location and favorable, although tropical, climate, the country produces four varieties of coffee: Robusta, Arabica, Excelsa and Liberica.

Lopez said the country’s current coffee output is pegged at 37,000 tons a year, but with the Philippine Coffee Roadmap, the country is expected to raise coffee production to 214,626 metric tons (MT) by 2022. This will bring the country’s coffee self-sufficiency level to 161 percent from the current 41.6 percent.

The Philippine Coffee Roadmap would also make available 213,788 hectares of area planted with coffee nationwide, translating to a huge yield of one ton of coffee beans per hectare—a huge discrepancy from the usual 0.33 ton per hectare. The task of implementing the road map falls on the Philippine Coffee Council.

Lopez is optimistic the country will be able to achieve this feat, especially with DTI assisting the coffee industry, which is one of the priority sectors of the agency.

“Through DTI’s 7Ms [Mindset change, Mastery, Mentoring, Money, Machine, and Models], we will continue to provide enabling mechanisms to empower coffee farmers and help in addressing the challenges in the industry,” Lopez added.

Data showed Vietnam is the highest exporter of green coffee beans to the Philippines. Filipinos are also fifth-biggest consumers of coffee behind the EU, the US, Brazil and Japan. Similarly, the Philippines is the top importer of soluble coffee and fourth total importer in the world.

As far as coffee production is concerned, the gap between coffee demand and production is widely noticed with demand for coffee at 90 percent and imports amounting to P12 billion. The demand is still increasing with expanding consumption among younger people.

Currently, the top 5 regions in producing coffee are Soccsksargen (Region 12) with 25,100.77 MT, Davao with 11,429.78 MT, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao  with 10,341.59 MT, Northern Mindanao with 5,604.95 MT, and Western Visayas with 4,356.25 MT.

With the Philippine Coffee Roadmap as guide, the trade and agriculture departments together with the private sector and other coffee stakeholders held on March 20 and 21 the third Philippine Coffee Conference in Baguio City and presented the coffee industry’s performance on the first year of the implementation of the road map.

The conference also discussed the strategies to achieve the goals of the Philippine Coffee Roadmap, trends in coffee—brewing methods, quality coffee farming of Arabica and fine Robusta, retailing a coffee business, financing for coffee business, and coffee business models.