October is also well-known for a different type of beverage. Since 1997, when President Fidel Ramos declared October as coffee month, we have been celebrating Philippine coffee. Promotional activities in malls include daily free coffee for two to three weeks.
The nonprofit Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) was established in 2002 as the National Coffee Development Board by then-Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo. Later, it was incorporated as a non-profit organisation with the sole purpose of promoting Philippine coffee. Consumers were unaware that we were a coffee-growing country at the time, let alone what a coffee tree looked like. That era ushered in a domestic coffee revolution.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, while coffee consumption increased last year, it was largely fueled by imports from Vietnam and Indonesia.
Consumer behavior-wise, the “3-in-1” coffee sachet became the prefered method of brewing one’s morning coffee. Instant coffee has become such a necessity that the Department of Trade and Industry, like rice and canned goods, closely monitors its price movements.
Farmers received better prices for their produce as coffee shops sprouted up throughout the country, increasing consumption of roast and ground coffee. Additionally, PCBI partnered with the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), which pioneered the Q system of coffee grading, resulting in the first-ever Kape Pilipino competition in 2017.
Consumers embraced Philippine coffee in cafes and online retailers as production of “quality” coffee increased. Demand for this category increased, purchasing prices increased, and farmers became more concerned with quality.
When the pandemic forced many cafes to close, people began brewing their own coffee at home, and a “brew at home” culture developed. Consumption continued to grow, making farmers happy to receive higher prices.
However, despite increased consumption, why are Filipino farmers still impoverished?
The primary issue is yield. Our average yield per hectare is 700 kilos, while Vietnam averages between 3,000 and 5,000 kilos per hectare.