By Ricardo R. Argana
As great consumers of coffee, the Filipinos are lucky that the Philippines, owing to its geographical location and climatic condition, can produce the four varieties of commercially-viable coffee − Arabica, Liberica or Barako, Excelsa, and Robusta.
It’s a sad thing, though, that despite these advantages, and our reputation as one of the major producers of coffee beans in the past, production at present has declined.
To regain its glory days, efforts are being exhausted by the government and its partners to boost the country’s coffee production. These efforts have been underscored by the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022 signed by President Duterte on Mar. 7, 2017.
The Roadmap will guarantee a cost-competitive coffee industry, meet global-quality standards, achieve a reliable and environment-friendly industry, provide sustainable benefits to its stakeholders, help attain food security, and alleviate poverty.
Given the need to produce more beans, it’s fire in all cylinders for the Los Baños, Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD), since 2011, in terms of investment and support for research and development of technologies for the benefit of the country’s coffee industry.
As the DOST’s research and development arm for agriculture, aquatic and natural resources research and development, PCAARRD leads the Program on “Creating Growth in the Countryside through Development of appropriate technologies on Coffee Production and Processing.”
The P45-million program is led by the Cavite State University in collaboration with the Benguet State University, Negros Occidental State College of Agriculture, and Central Mindanao University.
To date, DOST-PCAARRD has invested almost ₱100 million in different coffee R&D programs and projects.
Heeding DOST-PCAARRD’s call for a more productive coffee industry in the country, DOST-PCAARRD’s partner in Region 11, the Southern Mindanao Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (SMAARRDEC), hosted the Coffee Farms and Industry Encounters through the Science and Technology Agenda.
Held just recently at the Southern Philippines Agri-business and Marine and Aquatic School of Science and Technology (SPAMAST) in Barangay Matti, Digos City, the event was attended by more than 100 coffee farmers, investors, and buyers from Southern Mindanao.
SPAMAST and the Provincial Government of Davao del Sur partnered with SMAARRDEC in the conduct of the event. Its goal is to provide knowledge and business solutions to the regional agribusiness S&T products such as the coffee cherry, fermented beans and other coffee products.
During the event, PCAARRD Acting Executive Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, in a message delivered for him by Director Marita A. Carlos of the Applied Communication Division, conveyed his agency’s commitment in terms of coffee research and development.
“We target to help increase coffee productivity from 0.3 to 2.1 mt/ha by 2022 as well as improve the quality of green coffee beans to Grade 1 for local and export market,” Ebora said.
“We are glad to note that this year, based on a study conducted by the Benguet State University, organic Arabica yield has increased to 1.1 mt/ha. Liberica production as shown in the Science and Technology Community-based Farms (STCBF) in Sagada, Mountain Province, is also now achieving a yield of 2.1 mt/ha when production technologies are adopted,” Ebora added.
Initiated by DOST-PCAARRD, the STCBF is a technology delivery system on the adoption of the Package of Technologies (POT), in practically almost all of the Council’s priority commodities, which includes coffee, among others.
Ebora also explained the Council’s goal of achieving Grade 1 for the country’s green coffee bean, which is currently at Grade 3-4 and how it could be achieved through 100% adoption of postharvest technologies by our local farmers.
“Technologies for this purpose such as improved coffee depulper; greenhouse-type solar dryer with biomass-fired furnace; non-destructive moisture meter; and green coffee sorter have been developed,” Ebora also said.
With the help of its consortia, its main partners in the regions, DOST-PCAARRD has achieved its most recent exploits in terms of R&D initiatives − the establishment of coffee gene banks, the Philippine Coffee Quality Center in Cavite, cup profiles of Philippine coffee for export market; somatic embryogenesis for Liberica; identification of molecular markers for berry borer and scale insect, leaf blight and rust; and DNA-based varietal identification of Philippine coffee.
The technology promotion and transfer platform, FIESTA, among other PCAAARRD technology transfer strategies, has been instrumental in the efficient dispatch of technologies to the Council’s target clienteles.
FIESTA aims to elevate the status of ordinary farmers from mere producers of agricultural products to productive micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs to augment their income and to be able to contribute to economic development in the countryside.