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In Kalinga, coffee growers seeking government help to boost production

/ 12:34 AM March 07, 2016

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—Finland’s first Helsinki Coffee Festival has invited a pioneering Kalinga coffee processor to showcase Cordillera beans in April. But the good news has been dulled by reports that Kalinga province, the region’s top coffee producer, has seen its production drop.

During a coffee summit hosted by Benguet State University here on March 2, Antuza Refalda, manager of Kalinga Brew, said the government needs to help revive old Kalinga coffee trees to improve growth now that overseas markets have taken an interest in the province’s top commodity.

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“I was invited to attend the coffee festival. I will bring with me not just the Kalinga Brew but also the [whole range of beans grown in the Cordillera],” Refalda said.

“I do not see the other brands as competitors but partners. I believe it will be more helpful for us to work together,” she said.

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Kalinga is ranked as the seventh-largest coffee producer in the country, with 3,698.50 metric tons (MT) or 68 percent of Cordillera’s total coffee production as of 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

But old coffee trees in the Kalinga mountains have reduced the output of Kalinga beans, said Refalda, whose coffee processing and retailing firm carries the brand, Kapi ti Mutit (Civet Coffee).

She said Kapi ti Mutit was introduced in Finland by a Filipino based there in November last year.

“Without the coffee beans, we don’t have anything to process,” Refalda said in a talk she gave at the summit.

She said coffee production in Kalinga started to drop in 2011. Kalinga Brew, she said, had bought 1,000 kilograms of local beans each day when it started in 2006. “Today I’d be happy if I get 500 kg on a good day,” she said.

Kalinga needs a turnaround, she said, noting that it took her three years to rejuvenate her coffee tree farm. “I buy only local coffee beans grown in the Cordillera,” she said, adding that she was willing to buy the beans at much higher prices.

When a big coffee corporation buys coffee at P75 a kg, Refalda raises her buying offer to P85 a kg. “Because I am a farmer, too,” she said.

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Tanudan town in Kalinga has the widest production area for Robusta beans planted on 3,954 hectares of land, almost half of the province’s total production area, according to the DA.

A total of 10,598 farmers tend to 7,418 ha of Robusta trees, which produce 3,784 MT of beans. Pinukpuk town, also in Kalinga, has the widest area for Arabica with 10 ha of trees.

DA said Kalinga produces 56.60 MT of Arabica beans and 58 MT Excelsa beans.

The gap between the total volume of coffee consumed in the Philippines and the coffee it produces has been pegged at 108,000 MT, said Myrna Pablo, Cordillera regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry, who also spoke at the summit.

This was the reason a leading coffee manufacturer imports 75 percent of its beans, she said. Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Benguet, coffee, Cordillera, Helsinki Coffee Festival, Kalinga, Production
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