Daily habit costs us P7 Billion in imports.
The Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) recently announced the rising consumption in coffee of Filipinos- in all forms be it roast and ground, instant or specialty. “We are now at 170,000 MT per year, says Guillermo “Bill” Luz, Founding trustee of the country’s premiere coffee organization. “When we founded the board in 2002, our production was at a low of 22,000 MT and consumption then was 75,000MT,” he continues.
This brings the industry to a challenge of importation from Vietnam and Indonesia, ASEAN neighbors who are 2nd and 4th in production globally. “The Indonesians are offering commercial and specialty coffee to our roasters,” says Nicholas Matti, Chair of the PCBI. Matti was at the Indonesian—Philippines coffee tasting event held recently by the Indonesian Embassy with the support of PCBI. Matti also gathered the biggest roasters in the country—Gourmets café, Kickstart coffee, UCC, Siete Baracos, and Culinary Exchange—to consolidate their efforts to keep coffee prices stable in supermarkets and groceries.
Michael Asuncion of Kickstart Coffee and Silca Roasting Company is a second generation coffee roaster who supplies coffee to 150 supermarkets nationwide. Asunsion says” We need the PCBI to help us reach out to the Department of Trade and Industry(DTI), so the vendors do not squeeze us further in pricing ,”he declares.
The roasters agreed to form a coalition to be represented in the Consumer Affairs section of DTI. “We have about 80% of the coffee roasters in this room” Asuncion continues. The PCBI will seek an audience with DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez to discuss the roasters woes.
Robusta and Arabica prices are rising but roasted coffee has been kept low due to pressure from supermarkets and groceries. There is need to help promote local roasters rather than imported brands. “In some supermarkets, they are beside each other and the price differential is very small,” observes a director of PCBI.
Can you imagine local roasters giving up? That would mean disaster for the consumers who have now taken to brewed coffee as a replacement for soluble coffee—a segment that continues to grow at 20% annually. “But instant coffee is here to stay,” says PCBI President Chit Juan. “Universal Robina Corporation (URC) has given one of our partner communities an order for 10MT—all the way from Sulu,” she says.
All told, imports will remain at a steady volume of 100-135,000 MT costing the country about P7 Billion in foreign currency which could very well go to Filipino farmers. But at the rate we drink coffee, it may take more than 20 years to address the gap, a problem we hope the government will seriously look into.