FILIPINOS LOVE COFFEE – And the statistic speaks for itself: Pinoys rank 5th in the world as one of the top consumers of coffee; behind the EU, the US, Brazil and Japan. We are also one of the very few nations located along “The Bean Belt”, which enables us to produce all 4 varieties of the crop: Aarabica, Liberica, Robusta, and Excelsa.
The irony of the industry
Despite having the perfect climate for coffee growing, our local industry still fails to meet the global demand. Approximately P12 billion is allocated annually to import coffee, making us the 4th top importer worldwide.
Things haven’t always been this dismal. In fact, coffee production in the country has apparently been an age-old industry that dates back centuries. We used to be one the world’s top producers of the crop in the late 1800’s but it was in 1900s when it witnessed a significant decline.
Coffee beans were naturally uneven, which made roasting difficult. This was one of the main challenges during that time, coupled with the low prices of coffee in the local market. Eventually, cultivating rice and bananas became the more practical choice for farmers, who ended up trading their coffee beans for basic goods like sugar and salt.
Hope for a renaissance
The government has stepped in by devising the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017 – 2022. Signed by President Duterte on March 7, 2017, this plan aims to boost the country’s domestic coffee output in the next five years.
The roadmap will guarantee a coffee industry that is cost-competitive, aligned with global-quality standards, reliable and environment-friendly. It also aims to provide sustainable benefits to people involved across the supply chain: farmers, processors, traders, and exporters. The ultimate goal is to attain eventual food security and poverty alleviation.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is working closely with the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ensure the Philippine coffee industry would be at par with the world’s top producers such as Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and Honduras.
Lopez is optimistic the country will be able to achieve this feat, especially with DTI assisting the coffee industry, which is one of the priority sectors of the agency.
“Through DTI’s 7Ms [Mindset change, Mastery, Mentoring, Money, Machine and Models], we will continue to provide enabling mechanisms to empower coffee farmers and help in addressing the challenges in the industry,” Lopez added.
Aside from government efforts, various social enterprises are also doing their part in improving the global presence of Philippine coffee.
These heaven-sent organizations have given immense support that gives hope to local growers. Through their work, they have identified two important factors that help homegrown brands: (1) finding a sustainable way of increasing production and (2) helping farmers in re-learning and getting better at their craft with the aid of technology.
Ground breaking achievements
In 2017, Bana’s Coffee from Sagada, Mountain Province won a Gourmet Award held in Paris, France. Specifically, it was the 3rd International Contest of Coffees Roasted in their Countries of Origin. The recognition was a huge opportunity that highlighted Philippine coffee. It also shed light on the incredible work of Filipino coffee farmers like Goad Sibayan. Sibayan is a coffee farmer and roaster who grows Arabica beans in Sagada.
Apart from Sibayan’s win in Paris, other Filipinos have been making waves in the coffee industry too. Vie and Carlos Basilio Reyes are the couple behind Bote Central, a social enterprise that buys coffee beans from local farmers through Fair Trade.
The pair has developed a coffee roasting machine dubbed as the Rearden Roaster. This Filipino-patented invention is a 2-kilo batch roaster machine, which can roast different kinds of beans with moisture levels between 11 to 18 percent. Ultimately, the coffee roasting machine aims to help farmers increase their income.
More than just a habit
Life without coffee is difficult to imagine. It has been so ingrained into our lifestyle that it has become a de facto accompaniment to our routine. Take the classic silog breakfasts or warm pandesal. Those wouldn’t be complete without coffee. The same goes for our barangays and subdivisions whose cafes breathe life into our communities.
It’s safe to say that the mere aroma of coffee spurs a myriad of memories, and maybe even a sense of nostalgic comfort. It’s that familiar sense of assurance that the day is going to be a great one.
Our consumption of the product goes beyond habit – it’s tradition. And with all things tradition, we need to make the effort to keep it alive and relevant. How? We can start by supporting the local brew movement. It is an almost civic duty on our part to be more mindful of the brands we support instead of going for the crowd favorite. It requires a collective effort to uplift what is ours. And that one day, someday – Philippine beans will be known the world over.