Moro group embarks on coffee venture, eyes 3,000 hectares of Arabica farms

TACURONG CITY (MindaNews/6 Apr) – A private Moro group is eyeing to plant Arabica variety coffee in at least 3,000 hectares in the next three years in a bid to sustain its coffee production and in line with efforts to reforest denuded mountains in four Mindanao provinces.

Kim Bagundang, executive director of the Liguasan Youth Association for Sustainable Development, Inc. (LYASDI), said they are hoping their venture would contribute to peace and development efforts as well as change the negative perceptions against the Moros in Southern Philippines.

“Many people think about Moros as rebels or killers, which is actually not the case. That’s why we use the word as our brand name,” he told reporters.

LYASDI produces Kapi Moro, roasted coffee beans that the group described as “The Best of Highland Mindanao.”

Bagundang said Kapi Moro is best consumed within 18 days after roasting, otherwise they can still be consumed but the taste already degraded.

Currently, the group sources its raw coffee beans from backyard farmers in Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, where some 30 hectares of Arabica are planted, he said.

They are also getting supplies from the 300 hectares of Arabica farms in Mt. Matutum, the landmark peak of South Cotabato province, Bagundang added.

LYASDI has established nurseries in a bid to expand the Arabica coffee farms to Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Parang and Upi in Maguindanao, and Malungon in Sarangani.

Bagundang said they are eyeing 1,000 hectares in Lake Sebu, 120 hectares in Columbio and the rest of the 3,000-hectare target to the other towns.

The group currently buys raw Arabica coffee at P120 per kilo, much higher than the P80/kg in the commercial market, he said.

After roasting the raw beans in a machine, LYASDI sells them from P600 to P800/kg, although those manually roasted beans can be had at a much lesser price of P200/kilo, he added.

To spur the growth of its coffee venture, Bagundang said they have sought the help of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI), the recipient of the proceeds of a debt reduction agreement between the governments of the Philippines and Switzerland in 1996.

“FSSI extended us a loan of half-a-million pesos at an interest much lower that the prevailing rates charged by commercial banks,” Bagundang said.

It will be used for buying and selling coffee products, he added.

Miriam Arnelle Azurin, FSSI advocacy and communications officer, said the group’s coffee venture was deemed viable, thus the loan extension.

“At the same time, the project offers socio-economic and ecological opportunities necessary to empower people and communities,” she said.

Bagundang said their main market for roasted Arabica coffee beans currently is within the locality and neighboring areas, although they have buyers in Manila.

He urged people in the highlands to plant the crop, not just for additional income but also to help in preserving the environment.

Arabica, he noted, is suitable only in high-elevation areas.

At three years from planting, an Arabica tree could yield a kilo, and as much as 10 kilos per tree when already mature at seven years old, Bagundang said. (By Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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