Did you know that the Philippines was once the top coffee exporter in the world?
More than a century ago, we were the undisputed king of the coffee world until coffee rust decimated many coffee plantations. We have not recovered since. However, experts believe that we have what it takes to become a top coffee exporter once more.
Dr. Dave D’Haeze has been here before and has travelled around Mindanao and knows our soil and micro-climates. Dr. Dave D’Haeze was sent by the Hans R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS), the non-profit group of the world’s largest coffee buyer, Neumann Group based in Germany.
At the recent 10th National Coffee Summit, Dr. Dave again told the farmers to value our soil and our wonderful climate. “With climate change we must farm wisely,” he reminds the farmers. “Your coffee can taste better than most because your soils are rich and fertile” he says. He is based in Vietnam where yields are high. However, they use plenty of agro-chemical fertilizers to increase yields to as much as 5000 kilos per hectare. In the Philippines, the average yield is a dismal 700 kilos per hectare.
Dr. Dave believes proper husbandry or caring for the farm is key to a better harvest. Higher yields are even possible with organic fertilizers. “Clean your farms,” he tells the crowd. “The pests will not survive in a clean farm,” he says, “and you can save also on water with proper techniques of irrigation”.
“We have the ingredients for a good harvest” agronomist and PCBI Director Joel Lumagbas added. “What we are doing now is encouraging farmers to sell fresh red cherries to buyers who will do the primary processing,” he continues. Lumagbas has been going around Mindanao to encourage farmers to wait for fruits to ripen before harvesting them.
“It’s simple but not so simple for us in Sulu” laments Princess Kumalah Sug-Elardo, another PCBI director. The royal heiress turned coffee entrepreneur is hard-pressed in harvesting due to military operations in the area. “We have wasted a lot of civet coffee already because our members cannot go out to harvest,” she sadly reports. She hopes that the situation in her faraway town of Panamao will soon be normal as she has to serve the order of Universal Robina for her coffee.
“Dr D’Haeze went around Mindanao with our Chair Nicky Matti in 2013” Pacita “Chit” Juan PCBI President recalls. “He and a colleague who is a cupper tasted our Robustas and knew that our worst Robustas were better than most other good Robustas in other countries,” she proudly says. This is why the PCBI asked Dr. Dave to come back to the summit. Now that Quality is at the forefront of discussions on coffee, Dr. Dave can relate as he works in Indonesia and Vietnam, both high volume producers of coffee and with similar conditions as the Philippines.
Vietnam rose to No. 2 producer in volume beating Mexico and Indonesia, who is now number 4, outranking Colombia. If the Philippines cannot do the volume, it may have a chance in producing Quality Coffee for specialty markets. The demand locally is still at 120,000 MT a year while production is now a shy 35,000, up from the lowest of 22,000 metric tons when the PCBI was founded in 2002. For more information about coffee trainings, contact PCBI at www.philcoffeeboard.com or follow them on social media.