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Coffee execs urge perking up Mindanao bean farming

By Catherine Pillas

THE Philippine Coffee Board (PCB) is encouraging farmers to look to Mindanao to expand production of higher-valued coffee beans as land values in plantations in the northern Philippines are rising while land area viable for coffee planting is on a decline.

“We want farmers to explore Mindanao where the high-altitude mountains are prime for Arabica beans, there is a huge market potential for this type of beans,” PCB Chairman Nicholas Matti said.

Matti noted that in Central American countries, which supply roughly 10 percent of global coffee supply, there is a loss of about 5 million bags of Arabica coffee beans since 2013 as a coffee fungus there has affected the production of high-quality Arabica beans.

The Philippines is in a good position to help breach that gap if it ramps up its production of higher-valued Arabica beans, Matti said in an interview on Tuesday.

The Philippines produces 25,000 to 30,000 tons of coffee annually, with Arabica coffee comprising only 7 percent or 2,000 tons, of the total. Majority of the total is comprised of Robusta beans, which are priced lower.

According to Matti, the high-quality Robusta beans is priced at P100 to P105 per kilo while the cheaper ones are at P90 to P95. Arabica beans are priced at P150 to P200 per kilo.

The costs of production for both beans are the same, added Matti.

Another factor that may encourage farmers to look to Mindanao is the rising cost of land value in known coffee plantation areas in Northern Luzon such as Cavite and Benguet.

Pacita Juan, PCB co-chairman, said in a separate interview with reporters that the land value of 1 hectare in Cavite for coffee planting is priced at around P7 million, while it is only 1 percent of that, or P70,000, in Mindanao.

Cavite currently allocates 7,000 hectares for coffee planting but is additionally burdened by a declining land area, Juan said.

Mindanao, on the other hand, has 40,000 hectares dedicated for coffee and many more mountains remain unexplored for coffee planting.

“The decline must be offset by new plantings in Mindanao,” Juan said.

Benguet is another Northern province that coffee growers and millers are scuffling for, Juan added, “while Mindanao mountains and volcanoes’ potential are yet to be unlocked.” She said mountains that hold promise for coffee planting are Matutum in Cotabato and Apo, Hilong-Hilong and Talakag in Bukidnon.

Another incentive for looking to the South for coffee planting, added Juan, is the accessibility through distant provinces.

With the encouraged shift, Matti expects the production of Arabica to double from the present 1,000 to 2,000 tons in five years as it takes three to five years to harvest and grow coffee beans.

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