Lack of business sense, other problems bug PH coffee industry

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 5 March) – Lack of good business sense, among other problems, has bugged the growth of the country’s coffee industry, a former agriculture official said Thursday.

In a forum on Philippine international trade strategy here organized by the Department of Trade and Industry, Robert Ansaldo, agriculture undersecretary during the Cory Aquino administration, said the Philippines has “very good science but weak business” in coffee.

“We know how to grow [coffee] but don’t know how to package [it]… We have no processing and we import 80 percent of our coffee requirements, and this is increasing,” he said.

Ansaldo, who is now president of Rocky Mountain Arabica Company, said that the industry needs to tie up with indigenous peoples and farmers in the area of production.

But he noted that most upland areas were beset by conflicting land claims in addition to the presence of rebel groups owing to poverty.

“We have CBFM (Community-Based Forest Management), CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title) and military reservations,” he said, adding the issue of tenure should be resolved.

Ansaldo added it was also not clear what agency will provide capacity-building for the local communities and people’s organizations who will partner with companies like them.

Coffee is widely consumed worldwide as a beverage. In the world trade, coffee ranks first among non-staple food and is rated as the fifth most important agricultural product, according to the website of the Department of Agriculture’s Mindanao Rural Development Program 2 (www.damrdp.net).

“The Philippines used to be the top coffee producer and exporter in Asia but declining yields and conversion of coffee plantations to other export crops as well as to other commercial purposes resulted to an importation of coffee since 1997,” it added.

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