PH coffee industry carries enormous potential, says coffee expert

The Philippine coffee industry has immense potential for growth if coffee farming is further developed and coffee farmers are capacitated, according to the CEO of a coffee company.

Discussing market opportunities and trends in the industry, Alvira C. Reyes, CEO of Bote Central, said that previously, what farmers could do was just produce raw coffee beans or cherries which they sold at low prices.

But the direction now is for farmers to roast their own coffee, said Reyes, who spoke at the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Calabarzon Agri-Business Forum and B2B Session held August 8 in Calamba, Laguna.

In fact, if empowered, Philippine farmers can become “soil-to-cup” farmers, in which they can play the whole vertical role of the value chain and can sell the finished coffee products themselves.

She added that farmers now have “the best opportunity to earn the most” because of the good price of coffee these days.

She noted that Arabica coffee can sell from P300 up to P600 per kilo. “Yan ang naging [This has become the] trend through the years because the farmers are now earning more from coffee because they are now participants vertically along the value chain of coffee.”

She also observed that the latest business model being embraced is “coopetition” or competition and cooperation, which she described as a healthy model for sustaining and developing the industry.

She stressed, “As a buyer of coffee, I want to encourage everyone to go into the business of coffee kasi napakalaki ng negosyo ng kape (coffee is a huge business).”

Reyes is also the president of the Philippine Coffee Alliance, a network organization of smallholder coffee farmers nationwide advocating community-based coffee agribusiness for farmers, women, and youth.

To support the industry’s growth, Reyes said one of the areas the government can help is in the quality of the packaging.

She said that in her travels to various rural and remote places in the Philippines in search of coffee supplies, she found that some communities can benefit from assistance in improving their packaging and labeling.

She urged the government to “help the community-based coffee enterprises to assist them in labeling and packaging because it helps a lot to be properly dressed.”

Leonor D. Abella, vice president for promotions of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., who was one of the speakers, suggested approaching agencies like the Department of Science and Technology, which can provide packaging and labeling services and assistance.

Reyes said government support is also crucial to enable every region in the Philippines to have its own coffee industry. “Kahit saan parte ng Pilipinas kaya ninyo na magsasaka na magkaroon ng industriya ng kape [Farmers in all parts of the country have the capacity to put up a coffee industry].”

She said local coffee like the kapeng barako needs to be reinvigorated to compete with imported coffee.

“I’m an advocate for brewed coffee, homegrown coffee, farmer-produced coffee, farmer-processed coffee,” whose origins can be traced, said Reyes, adding that traceability is another emerging trend worldwide.

Moreover, if the coffee industry is strengthened, it also has an environmental benefit, something buyers are also increasingly asking from companies. Reyes said that with a strong local coffee industry, indigenous peoples can continue to plant coffee in the forests and hinterlands, in the process preserving the forests for future generations.

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