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December 5, 2009
Cordillera Autonomous Region Aims to Become Arabica Center

By WENDY ATUBAN
Northern Dispatch

Bulatlat.com

BAGUIO CITY— In a bid to become the country’s Coffee Arabica Capital, the region is preparing to revive its once thriving coffee industry, officials said last week in a press briefing.

Recognizing that coffee is a “widely consumed prestigious beverage…and the second most traded commodity after petroleum,” the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) in cooperation with the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc., and the Presidential Assistance Office is looking forward to strengthening the unstable coffee production in the region which produces coffee next only to Mindanao in abundance.

The program not only aims to make the region the Arabica capital but also to make the country an exporter of coffee instead of an importer. The country need not import coffee as the Philippines, like its neighboring countries, has land and climate suitable for growing Arabica and other coffee varieties, said Emmanuel Torrejon, North Luzon coordinator of the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc.

Torrejon said there is a great demand from US, Middle East and ASEAN countries for Philippine coffee. He said the Philippines is still importing coffee because it only produces 28 tons compared to Indonesia’s 650,000 tons and Vietnam’s one million tons.

At present, Juan B. Ngalob, RDC Acting Chair and Regional Director, considers the coffee industry in the region is not yet thriving as it cannot supply both the local demand and the international market. Based on a statement by the RDC, the Philippines has 123,269 hectares of coffee production area, most of which are found in Mindanao which has plantations and flat lands unlike Cordillera which is mountainous.

In 2007, the country produced 97.88 metric ton, which went down to 97.43 in 2008. CAR produced 6.25 MT in 2007 from an area of 7,581 hectares; it decreased in 2008 to 5.95 MT from an area of 7,270 acres. In 2009, the expected coffee production for the country is 105,956 MT.

Gerry Lab-oyan, chairperson of the Cordillera Arabica Coffee Council, blames the inconsistency of the coffee industry on the fact that many farmers have been planting more chayotes than coffee plants in bigger areas, while Ngalob looked into the financial support for farmers who are hesitant to engage in growing coffee because it starts to yield only after three long years.

Ngalob said there is a need to address the lack of supply of quality seedlings and other planting materials, lack of capital of coffee growers, weak marketing system and lack of skills, knowledge and appreciation of coffee growers of appropriate standards.

The Presidential assistance office’s share in the program, said Richard Abellion, is to look into the education of farmers through trainings on the proper planting practices and needs in growing coffee mostly in the backyards as there are no plantations in the region. Likewise, the PCBI said it will take charge in rejuvenating and rehabilitating poorly maintained coffee farms, in planting additional hectares with coffee and in conducting training.

To promote the coffee industry, the Regional Development Council allotted one million pesos ($21,659) as catalytic fund from the autonomy fund to the PCBI, a private sector-led organization, to look after the program and to service the coffee growers.

The region’s coffee industry differentiates itself in seeking to grown coffee organically to protect the soil. Also, organic growing of coffee using backyard farming is projected to sustain capacities of the watershed areas as the coffee shrubs will be grown on watersheds, said the Department of Agriculture regional director Cesar Rodriguez. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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