COFFEE farmers and buyers in Negros Occidental are being equipped by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with knowledge and skills on understanding standard and grading system vital in developing the sector.

Part of the initiatives is the seminar on “Understanding the Coffee Standard and Grading System” attended by about 40 participants at Business Inn Hotel in Bacolod City yesterday.

Rachel Nufable, chief trade and industry development specialist of DTI-Negros Occidental, said the local coffee sector players need better understanding of standards.

Nufable said that through the seminar, participating farmers learned how to identify the different qualities and characteristics of coffee, which is one of the priority-commodities of the province.

“We want farmers first to understand what they are producing and what the buyers would require them,” she said.

She noted that the current buying price is low because farmers cannot yet distinguish the variety of coffee beans they are harvesting.

The Negros Occidental Coffee Association (Noca) had earlier expressed optimism that farmers and producers in the province will be able to finally produce the “Negros Coffee” next year.

To achieve the target “traceability,” they still need assistance from the government, particularly in equipping them with the knowledge and skills in identifying coffee varieties.

Noca vice president Emilio Hilado III said many local farmer-producers are challenged in identifying varieties.

“In order to produce the best and pure coffee, we have to identify and segregate them according to variety,” he added.

According to DTI-Negros Occidental, it is important for local buyers to understand standards to ensure quality of their products.

Nufable said that by knowing the varieties they are buying, “coffee processors particularly coffee shop owners can have their own mix of coffee beans.”

“Both growers and buyers have to know and understand better the standards set in the market to increase their respective incomes,” she added.

Meanwhile, the seminar spearheaded by coffee experts Salvador Mijares and Anton Goonetilleke included actual coffee brewing and tasting sessions.

Aside from appearance, the best way to grade and test the quality of the coffee is through brewing, they said. (With reports from PNA)