The Philippine Coffee Board officers recently met with the Sultan Julius Mabangos, and Datu Mansangyawan of the Manobo tribe and the Indigenous People Economic Union to look at the revival of coffee planting on Mount HilongHilong in Agusan. The mountain is home to the indigenous tribe and is about 2000 meters above sea level, making it suitable for ARABICA coffee.
A visit to the area is planned soon to assess how many hectares can be allocated for coffee, for cacao and other crops which have a staggering import bill because of high domestic demand. Coffee consumption is still at 100,000 MT per year and production is a mere fourth. Cacao demand is at 25000 MT and production is only about 7500MT. Both are once-a-year crops and many investors are looking at coffee and cacao due to increasing worldwide demand.
The Manobo tribe owns ancestral domains which have remained organic and unaffected by chemicals making it a perfect site for specialty coffee production.”We need about 100 hectares planted so we can put up a mill in the area,” says PCBI chair Nicholas Matti. The PCBI can source seedlings from the Matutum or Mt. Apo areas in Mindanao to easily adapt to the micro climates in the mountaintops of Mt HilongHilong.
“We have to teach the farmers how to plant, harvest and process properly so we can get specialty coffee prices,” says Chit Juan, PCBI President and Co-Chair. “Many of our coffees are harvested as a commodity, and farmers do not pay attention to details because they do not get premium prices for better coffee,” she continues.
The PCBI knows what it speaks of. Recently, Matti and Juan went to Mt. Apo to check on the processing of the fresh coffee cherries and followed the beans to its drying stage, and the coffee was “cupped” and further won awards in an international contest in Thailand. “This is our proof that attention to detail can command better prices,” Juan declares to the Manobo chieftains. The awards allowed the PCBI to price the coffee as specialty grade and can compete with the world’s best.
The Philippine entries in the Roasters Choice awards won two awards, and finished just behind Indonesia and Thailand, in a contest where even Laos and Vietnam submitted entries. “This is the first time we won an award for Philippine coffee,” beams Matti , who accompanied the coffee to Thailand and came back with the awards.
The winning coffees can be bought online at shop,echostore.ph or in the coffee shops who promote Philippine coffee: Commune Café in Makati, Le Bistro in Terminal 2 and 3 and in ECHOstore Serendra.
The PCBI is preparing to hold its annual coffee event in Davao’s Abreeza mall on October 13-17 this year, to expose more of the Mindanao farmers to the intricacies of coffee production and processing, and to gather more farmers into the supply chain. Log on to www.philcoffeeboard.com for details.