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Coffee farming shifts to Mindanao

By Irma Isip

Coffee farming is shifting slowly to Mindanao, pushed by the rising cost of land in traditional coffee-producing provinces like Cavite.

Nicholas Matti, chairman of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) said at present only 4,000 hectares of land remain planted with coffee in Cavite. One hectare of farmland costs about P7 million and at this price, farmers are forced to plant crops with bigger yields or sell the land to property developers.

Matti said Benguet has far too many coffee plantations.

In Mindanao, hectarage planted to coffee varies from 14,000 to 34,000 hectares. Matti said about 70 percent of coffee produced locally now come from South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos.

Mindanao farms harvest coffee earlier, in October to December while those in Cavite start harvest in December up to March.

Productivity of coffee farms also pales in comparison with that  of Vietnam whose production is about 3 tons per hectare compared to the country’s 500,000 kilograms per hectare.

The Philippines produces about 25,000 tons of coffee annually but imports twice or three times that volume to meet local demand. Demand grows at about the same as the population rate of three to five percent.

Estimated demand is about 100,000 mt. About 75,000 mt is imported annually but official statistics place the number at 44,000 mt.

Roasted coffee alone is growing about 10 to 15 percent while coffee in 3-in-1 is increasing by 20 to 25 percent.

But a 15-gram sachet only contains about 2 to 3 grams of coffee.

PCBI president Chit Juan said the Philippines needs to invest for the long term in coffee as global shortage is estimated to reach 32 million bags by 2020.

Out of the 25,000 mt of coffee produced locally, about 70 percent of 17,000 mt is bought by Nestle Philippines Inc. for the production of instant coffee.  Matti said the price of green beans has gone up to P95 per kilo from P90 last week. Nestle buys coffee at a premium of P5 per kilo.”

PCBI said the Philippines used to be one of the biggest coffee producers in the world. At present, PCBI said the industry employs about 70,000 farmers in 22 provinces including Batangas, Cavite, Benguet, Kalinga, Apayao, Negros, Bukidnon nd Davao.

The Philippines still has the distinction of being one of the few countries in the world that can produce all four of the commercial coffee varieties, Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica and Robusta. Robusta accounts for 70 percent of the total annual production,.the PCBI said.

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