Farmers should consider planting coffee so they can cash in on in the increasing demand of Filipino consumers for the crop, Senator Cynthia A. Villar said.
Villar, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, noted that Philippine coffee consumption has grown to 170,000 metric tons (MT), from only 75,000 MT in 2002.
Citing data from the Philippine Coffee Board, Villar noted that local farmers can only supply around 20 percent, or 35,000 MT, of the country’s annual coffee requirement.
The senator, who was one of the keynote speakers in the third Philippine Coffee Conference held in Baguio City on March 20 and 21, also noted that the Senate’s passage of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will help boost coffee output.
Villar said the bill provides for a program that will allow the intercropping of coffee with coconut, thus expanding the land area where coffee can be grown.
She noted that this will also help increase the income of 3.5 million coconut farmers who earn a meager P57 a day. Currently, there are 2 million hectares of Philippine farms devoted to coconut.
Villar said increasing the productivity of coconut farms would help cut rural poverty to about 15 percent, from the current 34 percent.
She added the Philippines has a competitive advantage in coffee production, as it is only one of the few countries where the four commercial varieties—Arabica, Liberica, Excelsia and Robusta—can be grown.
Villar, who also authored the Farm Tourism Development Law, said farmers growing coffee could also earn from farm tourism. She said tourism farms must have a restaurant and home stay arrangements. They can also have their areas accredited as a farm school under a government program which extends support amounting to P300,000, for 25 students enrolled in it.
Those who wish to grow coffee may secure loans from a program dubbed as, “Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso,” according to Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez. He noted that the financing program for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is convenient for farmers in far-flung areas as it may accessed via mobile phone.
Through the P1-billion financing program, the government hopes that SMEs would no longer have to borrow money from loan sharks that charge onerous interest rates.