DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) – An Arabica coffee farmer from Bansalan, Davao del Sur will fly to the United States next month to represent the Philippines in the Specialty Coffee Expo (SCE) 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts from April 11 to 14 after bagging the top award in the recent 2019 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC).
Marivic Dubria, manager of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA), said in an interview here on Wednesday that her entry’s ranking had improved from second place in 2018 to first place this year out of the 34 Arabica coffee entries submitted by growers from all over the Philippines.
Dubria also represented the country, along with five other coffee farmers from Mindanao, in the SCE 2018 in Seattle, Washington.
The PCQC 2019, the third so far, was held at De La Salle University in Manila last March 23.
Dubria said three other farmers from BACOFA made it to the top 12 under the Arabica variety category – Agustin Timon (4th), Mario Luz Dubria (6th), and Sergio Soon (10th). Delio Cesar, of Maragusan, Compostela Valley, bagged the 11th place under the Robusta variety category.
As the champion, Dubria said she looks forward to promoting coffee from Davao del Sur in the three-day coffee expo in Boston, where around 13,000 participants, comprising growers, roasters, enthusiasts, retailers, and coffee experts, will gather.
But Dubria, a former daycare teacher, said she wants to help the Philippine coffee industry attain the annual demand of 27,000 metric tons before going full throttle with export.
She declined an offer from a prospective American buyer to ship 20 tons of coffee beans, which is almost equivalent to the association’s annual production, to the US a year.
Despite the growing demand, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s coffee production had been seeing a consistent decline from 75,454 metric tons in 2014; 72,341 MT in 2015; 68,822 MT in 2016; and 62,077 MT in 2017.
The region’s share of the 2017 production nationwide was 17% or 10,839.95 MT, consisting of Arabica (2,200.47 MT), Excelsa (1,258.09 MT), Liberica (75.47 MT), and Robusta (7,305.92 MT), according to PSA.
At present, BACOFA’s two foreign buyers are Canada and Japan. It has also established 14 buyers, mostly third wave coffee shops, in Manila and Davao City.
BACOFA has 250 coffee grower members and, collectively, their coffee farms measure about 400 hectares on the foothills of Mt. Apo.
What adds to the distinctive flavor of the BACOFA coffee is the volcanic soil, according to Dubria.
She said coffee growers in her community are becoming more open to the new technology in coffee growing, harvesting, and processing to ensure good quality, unlike before when their elders are reluctant to be taught by much younger coffee growers like Dubria herself.
She said more people are encouraged to embrace best practices when they saw how BACOFA is enjoying the huge market opportunity.
BACOFA has seven graded coffee beans at present, she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)