Editor’s note: This is the last part of the Davao Coffee Rising series. You can read the first and second parts here:
Part 1: Davao coffee beginning to rise in coffee scene (Part 1)
Part 2: Demand for local coffee going up but production struggles (Part 2)
THE Philippines is a net importer of coffee.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country produced a total of 60,043.88 MT in 2019. Data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed the Philippines is only 32.40 percent self-sufficient in its coffee production. The country imports 67 percent of its coffee.
Under the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022, the Philippine government targets to increase coffee production in the country to 214,626 metric tons by 2022. However, based on current trends, coffee production in the Philippines remains to be below the target set in the roadmap.
For 2019, the target production was at 68,135 MT. However, based on PSA data, only 60,043.88 MT was produced in the country.
For 2020, around 95,389 MT was targeted for the industry. However, based on the preliminary data of the Major Non-Food and Industrial Crops Quarterly Bulletin of PSA, only 60,636.15 MT was produced. Of this number, 10,826.26 MT were produced in Davao Region.
Emmanuel Quisol, ACDI/VOCA Business Development Coordinator, said farmers in Davao Region are not able to meet the demands on the market in terms of volume since there are lot of coffee buyers who run after limited volume of supply.
“For example, when the demand for Philippine specialty coffee peaks in the local market, our farmers could no longer meet the needs of our buyers. For instance, some Davao-based farmers have to allocate available volume for each buyer in order to cater to their requirements and to ensure that everyone is served.”
Coffee For Peace (CFP) Founder and CEO Joji Pantoja have also said earlier that, unlike other coffee-producing nations, the Philippines, in general, does not have large contiguous lands to allow for massive production of coffee.
John Paul Matuguinas, Department of Agriculture-Davao (DA-Davao) regional focal person for the High Value Crop Development Program (HVCDP), also said some farmers would opt to plant other crops instead of coffee because it either grows faster or allows farmers to earn more faster.
“Naay mga uban nga naa coffee trees pero ginaputol nila gusto na nila mga kanang cavendish kay dako og kita. Pero wala sila kabalo nga mas naay pa dako potential sa pagkakape sa Davao Region (There are farmers who cut the coffee trees and plant cavendish instead because they bet bigger profits. However, they are not aware of the real potential coffee),” Matuguinas said.
Pantoja said since it will not be easy to increase production, local farmers could also focus on the quality of their coffee beans.
But Matuguinas said the supply side of the industry also struggles to meet the quality that some on the demand side look for.
“Ang challenges sa atoang farmers sa Davao Region is particulary on…information sa quality conciousness… Dili kaayo sila concious sa quality sa ilahang kape (One of the challenge of our local farmers is their quality counciousness. They are not concious about the quality of their coffee),” he said.
Pantoja and Quisol also stated that another factor that prevents local farmers from producing quality coffee is the lack of decent post-harvest facilities.
“One of the challenges our local coffee farmers are access to modern harvest and post-harvest facilities. These include drying beds, warehouses (there was one built for BACOFA but was damaged due to the series of earthquakes in 2019), additional cupping laboratories (we have a few, but more laboratories are welcome), among others,” Quisol said in an online interview.
To allow for better quality and improved coffee production, the private and public sector are providing inputs to our local coffee farmers.
Matuguinas said the agency, through its HVCDP, is committed to helping boost the production of the coffee industry and at the same time, ensure quality coffee beans.
“Ang gina-provide sa DA is in terms of production, naga hatag ta og planting materials para mas ma-expand pa atong mga coffee areas kay mao pud na atoang goal (We provide farmers with planting materials to allow the expansion of coffee areas, which is part of our goals),” he said.
Mataguinas said they also provide farmers with fertilizers, pruning shears, and pruning saws. Farmers are also being trained on how to care for the coffee trees.
“If naa sila existing nga coffee trees, naa pud ta’y rejuvenation training para maka bata og balik ang ilang kape (If the farmers have existing non-bearing coffee trees, we provide them training on how to rejuvenate those trees so it will bear again),” Matuguinas said.
Marites Arellano, whose coffee beans placed first in the Arabica Category of the 2021 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC), was among the beneficiaries of the Coffee Rejuvenation Project. In a press statement, under the program, farmers are given close release fertilizer, pruning shears and pruning saw for its coffee rejuvenation program and post-harvest and processing facilities such as tramline system, dryers, a roasting facility, hauling truck, and mini-storage.
Matuguinas said they also provide coffee farmers associations with post-harvest equipment and other facilities for coffee to consolidate their produce.
He added that they are not only focused on providing farmers with planting materials and post-harvest facilities, they are also working on helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans.
“Isa sa main thrusts and aim ni DA karon is to educate coffee farmers to be more conscious sa quality (One of our main thrusts and aim right now is educating the farmers to be more conscious with their quality),” Matuguinas said, adding that one of the things they do is assessing the post-harvest process of the farmers.
Private sector response
Those in the private sector are also implementing programs or are working with farmers to improve the quality of their coffee and increase the yield of their plantations.
ACDI/VOCA, a non-profit organization, is currently working with coffee farmers through the PhilCAFE Project, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“We aim to increase production of conventional and specialty coffee, boost the country’s coffee exports, and build the capacity and expand service provision of the coffee value chain,” Quisol said.
He said the project targets to strengthen the capacities of at least 13,700 coffee farmers in the Philippines, expand services support to 350 coffee value chain players, increase by 50 percent the country’s coffee production, and increase coffee exports ten-fold.
Quisol said PhilCAFE facilitates the expansion of extension services to increase the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP) and improve on-farm technologies in coffee production.
“In addition to GAP, we also provide assistance in farm management and establishment of sustainable delivery services for extension. We train producer organization leaders, local government technicians, coffee mentors, and members of coffee-producing cooperatives and communities on GAP who cascade these training to members of their cooperatives and other association members,” he said.
Among the farmers ACDI/VOCA has helped are the members of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (Bacofa) in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. In the PCQC 2021, five of the top six coffee beans under the Arabica category are produced by farmers of Bacofa, of which Arellano is also part.
In a statement from ACDI/VOCA, Arellano shared that in producing quality beans, she implemented the good agricultural practices (GAP) she had learned during a Coffee Quality Institute training organized by PhilCAFE.
One of ACDI/VOCA’s earlier beneficiaries is Marivic Dubria, who is currently the chairperson of Bacofa. In 2019, she won the Philippines Coffee Quality Competition in the Arabica category. Following her win, she became one of the delegates that represented the Philippines in the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston, US.
“PhilCAFE project also supports the establishment of nurseries that produce high-quality seedlings and will strengthen producer access to retail input agents while increasing the capacity of producer organizations as a critical link in the coffee value chain,” Quisol said.
Coffee, a vehicle for peace
Among the earlier movers of the local coffee industry in Davao Region is Coffee for Peace. The social enterprise has been working with coffee farmers and the government to not only help improve the coffee industry but also promote peace.
“When we were doing our peace building work in Maguindanao, Basilan, and Sulu. I noticed that even the Muslim people, the Indigenous people, and the Christians like coffee,” she said.
She said each cultural community has a distinct way of serving coffee to their guests.
“Na surprise [ako] because when we were with the Tausug or with the Maguindanao, they serve us their coffee yung niluto sa palayok, may asukal na nga lang pero masarap pa rin. Sa Bagobo-Tagabawa naman yung coffee nila may halong mais (I was quite surprised because when we visited the Tausug or when we were with the Maguindanao, they served us their version of coffee that was brewed in a clay pot. It was served with sugar and tasted good. Meanwhile, the Bagobo-Tagabawa mixed theirs with corn),” Pantoja said.
She said coffee is common among different people of different communities and serves as a medium for people to converse with one another.
Pantoja added, “This cup [of coffee] can make people sit [down], converse, and dialogue… Whatever conflict they have can be settled.”
As it promotes peace through coffee, it was able to help improve the coffee quality and production in the communities it was working with
Pantoja said when they started working with some of the communities, there was definitely a gap in how they process their beans.
She said when they visited one of their partner communities in 2006 or 2007, they noticed that there was a problem with the coffee beans that were being produced. The farmers then were still following old practices to produce their beans.
“Yung traditional style nila ng preparation ng coffee hindi papasa sa international standards (The traditional way they prepare or process coffee would not pass international standards),” Pantoja said.
She studied the good agricultural practices of other coffee-producing countries and shared them with the farmers.
Pantoja recalled that when their first community passed the standards set by the international market, they exported around 600 kilograms of coffee beans to Canada. It was well received and the buyer requested more.
“They want more but I was honest to them na (that) we can only produce 2 tons to 10 tons, not a truckload, 38 tons di namin kaya (We cannot produce 38 tons of coffee beans),” she said.
Hence, Coffee for Peace began working with the government to reach out to more farmers.
“Para makapag train ng maraming farmers, kailangan ko ng collaboration with government (I need to collaborate with the government to train more farmers),” she said.
Pantoja added that by also partnering with the government, they will be able to provide the needed equipment for the farmers.
Coffee for Peace trains its partners with good agricultural practices and coffee processing.
Eventually, the collaboration with government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, helped improve the production and quality of the coffee beans of the community partners.
She said the communities they have helped can now supply at least 32,000 kilograms (kg), which is an improvement from only 2,000kg when they started.
Right now, they are working with farmers at the foot of Mt. Apo, Bacofa included. They are currently working with farmers who are part of the Obo Manuvu. They are also set to work with another community in the Paquibato district in Davao City.
It is through these partnerships between public and private sectors that allows the coffee farmers to keep up with the changes and enhance the quality of the beans it produces.
Quisol said by working on the gaps in the supply side, the coffee farmers and the beans they produce will be competitive in the international market and address the needs of the domestic market.
“To produce high-quality coffee, it requires patience, endurance, discipline, and diligence. The farmers must employ GAP in the entire coffee production process (seedlings, farm management, harvest, and post-harvest production),” he said.
He said this may sound difficult to achieve, but once the farmers have adopted all these traits, the results are phenomenal.
“Based on our experience in the field, those who religiously followed our recommended practices and protocols emerged as winners not only in the PCQC, but also in attracting buyers for their products,” Quisol said.