‘Coffee roadmap’ seeks to empower farmers, says DTI

By Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay

ILOILO City – The local coffee industry remains a largely untapped market, but a joint venture by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking to empower the value chain’s stakeholders, from the ground up.
“We seek inclusive growth. Hindi lang yung mga manufacturers and traders na malalaki ang nag-bebenifit, pati mga farmers and MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) should earn more,” DTI – Cordillera Administrative Region regional director Myrna Pablo told Panay News during the official industry cluster rollout of the Coffee Industry Roadmap in the Visayas, held from Aug. 2 to 4.
Also the National Industry Cluster coordinator for coffee of DTI, Pablo shared that the three-day assembly seeks to present to local producers, farmers, and stakeholders the Duterte administration’s plans for a sustainable and globally-competitive Philippine coffee industry, seen to contribute to achieving food security and poverty alleviation.
“Ang goal ng ‘roadmap,’ is to direct, guide, and provide direction kung ano ang priority ng government to stakeholders relative to the coffee industry,” said Pablo. “Nandun sa ‘roadmap’ yung mga dapat gawin ng sector gaya ng pag-strengthen ng coffee group in the Visayas”
Pablo shares that coffee farmers in Western Visayas are still largely reliant on big coffee manufacturers for income – enduring back-breaking work to sell their raw produce for minimal profits – but DTI wants to empower them by offering “an alternative option.”
“Usually ang direction nakikita ng farmers is selling to [a large coffee manufacturer], but they should know that’s just an option,” shared Pablo. “Sa DTI, we promote adding value to the coffee. Hindi lang coffee beans ang ibenta mo, you can process it para ma-multiply by six times or eight times ang value nya, earning farmers a larger cut of the profit.”
“I don’t have anything against [large coffee manufacturers], responsibility lang talaga naming nasa gobyerno to create more awareness that there are more potential earnings for producers when they process their goods,” the Trade official added.
SHORT-CHANGED FARMERS
LoCo, or Local Coffee shop owner Dr. Ayn Bedonia shares the same sentiments as DTI’s Pablo. Having personally met and partnered with farmers from the provinces of Calinog, Miag-ao, Banate, and Dingle among others, for her Iloilo-based coffee shop, Bedonia has seen first-hand the struggles of those at the ground floor of the industry’s value chain.
“Once we started buying the coffee we saw that the farmers were being shortchanged,” related Bedonia. “We went to the provinces to meet the farmers, to meet their families, and there we saw the struggle of these farmers. The amount of work that goes into assembling a sack of coffee is very labor intensive, but very little ang income that goes back to the farmers in return.
“One of our first farmers was Arlene, a very small woman. She needed to walk an average of 20 kilometer just to produce a sack of coffee,” the businesswoman recounted. “Carrying a 50 kilogram sack of coffee, she walks about 5 kilometers to have it pulped and hulled, and then she would carry it back to her home. She would dry it under the sun, before carrying it back to the mill to have it milled again.”
“Farmers had to pick out the bad beans in order to meet the quality standards of [a large coffee manufacturer]. Then they’d have to pay for the fare going to the town – pay for the fare to sell their coffee to [the manufacturer],” she added. “The bottom-line is: If it’s good, they buy it from you. If they don’t like it you have to take it back, so all that effort for nothing.”
Bedonia shares one of the key drivers of the success of their business is their advocacy to give back the coffee farmers.
“What we do, regardless of whatever the quality of the beans was, we would buy it. We would go all the way to their farms to save them the fare, so that we could also socialize with them, get to meet their families,” she said. “Just last December, Arlene was able to buy her own machines to process her dried coffee fruit, all because of our continued support. She doesn’t need to walk long distances while lugging a sack anymore. Now she’s the one who mills for her neighborhood. ”
Meanwhile, DTI Region 6 OIC-regional director Rebecca Rascon said she is optimistic Western Visayas will be able to up its production and empower its coffee stakeholders and farmers with the guidance of the Coffee Industry Roadmap.
“The coffee industry in Region 6 is going to be very dynamic,” Rascon told Panay News. “Kay ngaa man? We have energized the stakeholders from the whole of the barrio chain – from the nursery operators up to those who plant, we also have representatives from processors, and even coffee shop owners said they are willing to cooperate.”
“I look forward to a brighter prospect for the industry, kay kung lantawon natun ang data. The world demand for coffee is high. With that high global demand, the Philippines is serving only a minute amount when we could have the potential to be a competitive producer of coffee,” concluded Rascon.
UNTAPPED MARKET
Pablo said that coffee remains a untapped industry in the country, though it possesses the most potential for exponential growth. She adds that the Philippines is among the top consumers of coffee; but when it comes to the top producers, the country is not on the list.
“There is a misalignment of production versus consumption,” the DTI official said. “Ang laki ng consumption natin, pero ang liit ng production. That’s the first concern that the ‘roadmap’ seeks to address: the need to increase production and productivity. Kase largely reliant parin tayo sa pag-iimport ng coffee from Vietnam.”
Based on data from the International Coffee Organization, coffee consumption in the country increased by 8.8 percent from 2014 to 2015.
However, domestic production has been declining by 3.5 percent annually over the past 10 years, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The long-awaited Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022 in March, in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte, after a series of consultations with industry stakeholders. The program is a joint venture by DTI and DA to bridge the various gaps in the supply chain to make the local coffee industry more competitive./PN