SENATOR Cynthia Villar said coffee farmers now have the opportunity to improve their income with coconut and coffee intercropping.

Villar, during the third Philippine Coffee Conference in Baguio City, said the passage of Coconut Industry Development Fund on Senate this week is set to help the coffee industry.

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act or Senate Bill No. 1233 will create a new Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund to benefit coconut farmers and development of coconut industry.

Villar said the bill emphasized coffee is a crop used for intercropping in coconut with over P2-million hectares of coconut farms that are ideal in coconut coffee intercrop.

Philippines has three and a half million coconut farmers who only earn on the average P57 a day or P1,500 a month.

"This could provide a big boost to their income. With intercropping, ang mga coconut and coffee farmers ay pareho nating matutulungan," Villar said.

Villar who chairs the Senate committees on agriculture, food, environment and natural resources, and agrarian reform said the current administration aims to bring down poverty to 22 percent to 15 percent, in doing so entails the need to bring down poverty level among rural areas.

"Kailangang bawasan natin ang kahirapan sa rural areas and the best way to do it for this stakeholders is to help the coconut farmers which numbers three and a half million, 40 percent on our crop farmers to intercrop with coffee and cacao so that we can bring them out of poverty," she added.

Villar mentioned Philippines has the competitive advantage as one of the two countries that produces that four varieties of commercial and viable coffee; Arabica, Liberica (Barako), Excelsa, and Robusta. Majority of coffee farmers has an average farm size of one to two hectares with favorable climatic and soil conditions perfect in growing these coffee varieties.

Increasing production in farm productivity alone cannot put farmer permanently out of poverty. Villar said small farmers must be taught of capacity strategies and approaches to level up their knowledge and help farmers to operate their small farms as agri-business.

"So ang maliliit na magsasaka ang dapat nating tulungan improving their production maybe coffee farmers can also venture into agri-entrepreneurship, agri-tourism and agri-related training."

The senator also mentioned with the passage of farm tourism development law, increasing number of farmers convert their small farm into a tourist farm.

"Many of them are now managing their farm as business, it has become a win-win situation for them, they farm, they accept tourist or visitors to their farms and for those who have a school can also accept."

Coffee farms as tourist sites are now in Batangas, Cavite, Davao.

"The farm tourism is another window of opportunity for you all in the coffee industry," she added.

Philippine Statistics Authority in 2016 recorded a 68,656.21 metric tons coffee production with 113,908.87 areas planted in the country.

The top five regions in the volume of production comprised Region 12 with 25,100.77 metric tons, Region 11 with 11,429, followed by ARMM with 10,341.59, Region 10 with 5,604.95 and Region 6 with 4,356.25.

The focused development of the coffee industry guided by coffee road map from 2017 to 2022 inculcate strategic objectives improving quality and availability of planting materials and coffee standards and support services.

Potential targets of the road map by 2022 to reach sufficiency level including the total production of 214,626 metric tons, total area planted of 213,788 hectares and yield per hectare of one metric ton.