Skip to content

Wanted: Young coffee growers

May 8, 2010

By Desiree Caluza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 17:32:00 12/26/2009

BAGUIO CITY – The country needs a new breed of coffee farmers to sustain and make the industry competitive, an official of the Philippine Coffee Board said.

Emmanuel Torrejon, Northern Luzon coordinator of the PCB, said the country only has about 30,000 coffee farmers, most of them between 60 and 80 years old.

The PCB, Torrejon said, was also urging agriculture schools in the country to offer courses on coffee farming and processing to spark interest among the youth to revitalize the coffee industry.

“These old farmers need to be replaced in the near future by younger, creative farmers to sustain the industry. Our farmers are too old and we are worried about who is going to take over,” Torrejon said.

He said the board partly attributed the decline in coffee production to the waning interest of local farmers to cultivate their coffee plantations and who prefer to plant high-yielding cash crops.

“In the 1980s, we produced 65,000 metric tons (MT) annually, but at present we only produce 28,000 MT. Why did this happen? The old trees were no longer [revived] and many farmers had lost interest in growing coffee,” Torrejon said.

He, however, sees some hope in state-run colleges and universities that encourage their students to try coffee growing.

Torrejon said the Cavite State University was offering a course on coffee agriculture while the Benguet State University’s school of agriculture has included coffee farming in one of its research programs.

He said old coffee farmers were passionate and more patient in cultivating coffee trees than the young.

“But we also need new blood…because they can be more experimental, innovative and creative and they are more open to [using new] technology,” Torrejon said.

Richard Abellon, coordinator of the Cordillera Regional Arabica Coffee Council (CRACC), said coffee was considered more of a “household crop” than a commercial crop by most Cordillera farmers.

“Old farmers have a deep appreciation of the value of coffee. In our region, there is not much appreciation … because farmers give more attention to vegetable farming, which [earns them more money]. They [prefer to focus on their] vegetable gardens [where they can harvest in a shorter period], unlike coffee trees that only bear fruit after three to five years,” Abellon said.

He said coffee growing in the Cordillera remained a backyard industry.

“The price of the coffee is still low in the market, discouraging farmers to go into coffee farming. Arabica coffee beans used to sell for P70 a kilogram. Now it sells for P140 a kg, but this is not yet a fair trade price,” he said.

Abellon said even traders have low regard for coffee farmers because the volume and quality of coffee that they produce were not up to standard.

“Coffee farmers should be organized so they will be in a better bargaining position. They can help each other ensure that they would produce and sell good quality coffee,” he said.

Reports from the Department of Agriculture showed that the Philippines used to be the top producer and exporter of coffee in Asia. Declining harvest and the conversion of coffee plantations into other purposes resulted in importation starting 1997.

DA reports said the country imported around 20,000 to 30,000 MT of coffee beans, worth P70 million, a year.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: