Government bent on increasing coffee production by 2012

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CONCERNED government agencies are bent on increasing the country's coffee production by at least five percent by 2012, drafting measures to address limited supply by encouraging farmers to engage into coffee growing.

At present, only some 30,000 metric tons of coffee beans are produced locally, way below the annual local demand of 64,000 metric tons.

One major area that the Department of Agriculture is looking at is the setting up of post-harvest facilities all over the country that will boost income of coffee farmers.


"If you see it now, most coffee growers dry their coffee beans on the road, even on national highways. Once vehicles happened to pass on their produce, the coffee beans would be broken and this will affect its quality," Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala said in Monday's press conference shortly after the holding of the 2nd Philippine Coffee Investors Forum at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.

Some 150 potential investors from various provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao attended the forum organized by Nestle Philippines, Inc. and the National Convergence Initiative (NCI), a tripartite group of DA, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Like the staging of its first leg in Manila this year, the forum served as a venue for government and the private sector to share knowledge and explore opportunities available in coffee farming.

During the same press conference, DAR Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan said they have been identifying areas where coffee plantations can be developed to boost coffee production all over the country.

In Mindanao, he said they are looking at possible areas that can be developed for coffee farming under the agency's Mindanao Settlement Project.

Pacturan said they have identified at least 11,000 hectares in Davao Region, Bukidnon and Sarangani that can be utilized for coffee farming.

He said developing these tracts of land for coffee production should be done fast before "urbanization" sets in these areas.

For instance, Pacturan said, coffee farms in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) were sold by farmers to property developers for "quick money."

"We are losing our coffee farms to subdivisions," he said.

But at present, Alcala said the government is exerting efforts to prevent conversion of areas devoted for agricultural crops, such as coffee, for industrial and commercial use.

"Mas malakas na ngayon ang intervention ng gobyerno. We have to develop our coffee industry and protect our farmers," he said.

Jennifer Remoquillo, head of DA's high-value crops development program, said although coffee production posted a negative growth as of the third quarter of 2011, they are still confident to improve the production and post positive growth by year ends."

At the end of 2010, Remoquillo said coffee production posted a negative-two growth rate. This further declined to a negative-seven growth as of September this year.

But with government intervention, such as distribution of planting materials, Remoquillo expressed confidence they can still meet their target growth of five percent by next year.

According to Edith de Leon, Nestle Philippines senior vice president and head of corporate affairs, the annual local demand for coffee beans is currently pegged at 64,000 metric tons, with a value of around P5 billion, but only less than 50 percent or some 30,000 metric tons are supplied locally.

"The rest or about 34,000 metric tons are imported from Indonesia and Vietnam," she said.

Nestle is the biggest buyer of green coffee in the country, purchasing 80 percent of the total coffee produce.

"The demand is still growing. Malaki pa talaga kakailanganin," she said.

Nestle set up a coffee center in Tagum City, the Nestle Experiment and Demonstration Farm, touted as its most modern facility in the country.

In Monday's forum, a ceremonial turnover of the memorandum of agreement between Nestle and NCI was also conducted, formalizing the partnership of the two parties to engage in a joint technical and commercial cooperation and scientific exchange program for the development of coffee industry.

"We are an ardent supporter of the Philippine coffee industry. We have been supporting local farmers and traders through our Creating Shared Value Program. We look forward to contributing further to the growth of the coffee industry by collaborating with various coffee stakeholders to help the country attain self-sufficiency in terms of coffee supply," de Leon said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 29, 2011.


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