The bittersweet situation of the local coffee industry

October is Philippine Coffee month and like most businesses today, the local coffee industry is facing serious challenges. What does the future hold for Philippine coffee?

Author
Angelo Garcia
Date
October 27, 2020
Categories
Local
Coffee
Trading

The Philippines is located in a region where coffee can abundantly grow. Also known as the "Bean Belt" countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, and South America are where most coffee beans come from.

Locally, it is still a growing industry but the country has a huge potential in the global coffee market. After all, coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world.

However, Philippine coffee is more than just kapeng barako, because several producers and roasters have proven that our coffee is some of the best in the world.

Like most businesses, the local coffee industry is struggling because of the pandemic. Local coffee shops are forced to close down, thus bringing the sales of local coffee beans to drop.

But some coffee shops, coffee sellers, and resellers are thinking of ingenious ways to bring high-quality coffee to Filipino homes. Delivery is the best option for now since e-commerce is at its peak.

“The coffee demand has decreased from hotels and restaurants and many cafes in malls have scaled-down operations,” shares Philippine Coffee Board president Pacita “Chit” Juan in an interview with GMANetwork.com.

Since people are staying at home, obviously, the demand for coffee delivery has increased. But what lies beyond the pandemic?

BEAN DELIVERY

One local coffee brand that turned to e-commerce is SGD Coffee. They're not your run-of-the-mill coffee brand but they sell high quality and award-winning roasts

Established in 2012, SGD Coffee is a private initiative of The Coffee Heritage Project.

“The Coffee Heritage Project launched in 2009 aimed at improving, promoting, and conserving our heritage coffee,” explains Rich Watanabe, executive director of the Coffee Heritage Project.

SGD Coffee has several roastery and cafes including in Sagada, Quezon City, San Juan City, and Manila. The brand sources its beans from all over the country--from north to south--like Sagada and Bukidnon.

But what makes The Heritage Coffee Project's coffee stand out are the international recognitions it has received in recent years.

Green or unroasted coffee beans / SOURCE: SGD Coffee

In 2017, one of the project partners, Bana's Coffee of Sagada, received an excellence certificate from the Agence pour la Valorisation des Produits Agricoles (AVPA) in Paris, France. Then in 2019, SGD Coffee received a bronze medal award in AVPA's 5th International Contest of Locally Roasted Coffees.

The awards have helped local coffee get the attention of Filipinos. In a market saturated with instant coffee and international coffee shop chains, good quality local coffee is starting to get recognized.

Farm workers sort coffee beans / SOURCE: SGD Coffee
“The recognitions that Philippine coffees received from the French international coffee competition created a tremendous impact on consumer perceptions on the quality of Philippine coffees translating into more sales and better economic benefits for growers, increased motivation for coffee growers to work towards quality-focused farming approach of The Coffee Heritage Project, and a general high regard for Philippines coffee in the world coffee scene,”

Watanabe says.

There are several brands under The Coffee Heritage Project, apart from SGD and Bana's. These brands include Mirabueno, Ambaguio's Finest, North Star, Calle Mon, and Nayong Kalikasan.

USING COFFEE FOR PEACE

Heading down south, there's an organization that is using coffee to help solve conflicts.

“We listened to marginalized people on the ground and it is hard for them to understand peace on an empty stomach. Peace is something felt and enjoyed,”

shares Coffee for Peace Inc. chief executive officer Joji Pantoja with GMANetwork.com.

"We searched our country where coffee was grown. We found it in communities who were victims of war and conflict. Conflict coming from ideological issues, land claim issues, irresponsible mining, and illegal logging issues. Communities were displaced and have given up their hope in life,” she explains.

Byron Pantoja (right) and his team packing coffee beans / SOURCE: Coffee for Peace

The organization goes around communities in Mindanao and trains locals in coffee farming. They don't just train them on how to grow the precious plant but also how to properly harvest the berries, ferment the beans, and even roasting.

Because of their efforts, they recently won the Oslo Business for Peace Award 2020, the “Nobel Prize” of the business world. Amid the pandemic, they have likewise improved their presence online, selling green beans (unroasted) and roasted beans.

“As part of the Davao Region 11 Coffee Council, we are strengthening the presence of Mindanao coffee to the whole country. We have the best arabica coffee here in Mindanao. Marivic Dubria, Sergio Loon, Bae Baby Jerlina Owok, are some of the farmers that are promoting their coffee. We had our Philippine Coffee Expo, and most of our Mt. Apo Farmers coffee scored premium to specialty coffee last year,” Joji says.

CHALLENGES AND THE FUTURE

One of the biggest threats to coffee is climate change. Global warming has affected coffee production worldwide. Unlike other crops, coffee plants are more susceptible to factors caused by climate change like rising temperatures, droughts, pests, etc.

“What worries us is climate change and its effect on agriculture in general..."

"...Warmer climates may mean pests and diseases [that prevent] coffee farms [from] thriving. We may have to plant at higher elevations. Farmers must mitigate climate change by going back to agro forestry and not just plant coffee as a monocrop,” Chit explains.

Coffee berries are handpicked by farmers. / SOURCE: The Coffee Heritage Project

According to Joji, another thing that needs to change is where big companies source their beans. Majority of Filipinos still consume instant coffee, manufactured by multinational corporations.

“Right now, 75 percent of coffee sold in the stores are from other countries. We have to reverse that by making multinational companies buy more from the locals for their green beans supply, so that we can sustain our economy,” she urges.

Despite the challenges, the stakeholders of the local coffee industry are optimistic about the future of Philippine coffee.

“There seems to be an up-tick in online coffee resellers during the pandemic. Some businesses have shifted their operations from dine-in to online. In any case, coffee appears to be recession-proof (or pandemic-proof?!) as coffee consumers continue on their coffee purchases,” Rich says.

“Yes, not only am I optimistic on the future of the coffee industry in the Philippines, it also seems that the best of Philippine coffee is yet to come!”

he adds.

Fresh coffee, the way people of Sagada do it. / SOURCE: The Coffee Heritage Project

Photo Sources: Coffee For Peace, SGD Coffee, Selena Lim

Article available at: https://www.gmanetwork.com/entertainment/celebritylife/food/

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