Stakeholders of coffee industry bat for sustainability
by S.C. Aro
Baguio City (5 December) -- In efforts to strengthen the coffee industry, some sectors pushing for its development saw the need for its sustainability.
While coffee growing has been a way of life of the Cordillerans, coupled with its environmental impact, it has a great economic potential particularly Arabica coffee, a premium coffee characterized by its good aroma and flavor.
The region, which is being positioned as the Arabica coffee capital of the country, has an edge over the other areas in the country due to its upland climatic conditions and good soil conducive to growing Arabica coffee.
From the viewpoint of the private sector, Gerry Lab-oyan, Chair of the Cordillera Regional Arabica Coffee Council (CRACC) saw the value of coffee which he said should be protected and propagated.
"We should become guardians of old trees as these are the sources of parent materials," he said adding that the council is there to protect growers. Coffee growing has been a practice two centuries ago, Lab-oyan said.
Coordinator for the Northern Luzon National Coffee Development Board Emmanuel Torrejon said the Arabica coffee has a niche for marketing abroad but admitted that it could not even supply the demand locally and the country is still importing.
With this status of the industry, their group is helping local producers to elevate and increase production in existing farms through the distribution of organic fertilizers. They are also doing rehabilitation and rejuvenating poorly maintained coffee farms in Benguet, Mt. Province and Kalinga.
Torrejon said if their budget allows, they also plan to help in increasing plantation area and help in augmenting post harvest facilities to improve quality of produce.
Meanwhile, Valentino Macanes, Director of the Institute of Highland Farming Systems and Agro-Forestry (IHFSA) of the Benguet State University informed that the school is into research, development and extension. They do agro-forestry technology in rejuvenating planting materials.
As it helps in arresting soil erosion, Arabica coffee could also grow under the sayote plantation, he added.
BSU acquired an international organic certification as producer and processor of organic Arabica coffee, currently the first and only in the country according to Macanes.
The Regional Development Council - CAR provided fund under the Special Autonomy Fund (SAF) amounting to P1 million to the Department of Agriculture to pump prime the development of the coffee industry.
Among the accomplishments of the Department of Agriculture according to Regional Director Cesar Rodriguez, were distribution of materials for coffee-based nurseries, conduct of trainings, and support to the the formation of councils.
Acting RDC Chair and NEDA Regional Director Juan Ngalob believes that there is a need to develop and sustain coffee, a high value crop, because it is environment friendly, has financial and economic potentials unlike the vegetable industry which has internal and external threats.
Moreover, it is perceived that the coffee industry plays a vital role in regional development and autonomy.
According to Richard Abellon, Executive Assistant of the Office of the Presidential Assistant (OPA), the development of the coffee industry creates opportunities through self-reliance. It integrates a culture for a conscious and a regional oneness through a regional structure.
It also interfaces traditional and political system through a modern way set-up. Abellon said this is characterized in the coffee council composed of the private, government and the coffee farmers which is an expression of a community working together.
Along with DA, the OPA was allotted funds under the SAF with the project entitled'Jumpstarting and Capability-Building of Coffee Farmers and Intervention for Poverty Alleviation.' OPOA assisted in the organization of coffee councils with the regional federation already in place. The group also intends to establish self-sufficient supply of planting materials which has been a problem according to Abellon.
On the other hand, Nalob viewed that self-reliance and self-determination could be attained "if we produce more than what we produce now" referring to the production of coffee. This could be translated in terms of taxation and income of government. The more enterprises, the more people earn, the more income, he said.
He strongly urged the DA to provide special budget to augment the resources of the National Coffee Development Board as well as the different partners.
Torrejon also suggested that sustainability could be attained through offering academic scholarships to students and start young in order to have a new breed.
In strengthening the industry, Rodriguez urged d coffee farmers to preserve and take care of the environment so as not to destroy what has been started. (PIA) [top]