Together in economics and in coffeeBy Chit U. Juan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We may as well call ourselves the Asian Coffee Group, but since only Southeast Asian countries still produce most of the coffees of the world, we have called ourselves the Asean Coffee Federation.
In fact, 85 percent of Robusta coffee (one of four varieties we grow in the country) drank worldwide comes from Vietnam and Indonesia. How significant to be one of the coffee-producing countries, even if our production remains small and our consumption as a country continues to grow.
Last year, the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCB) was invited to be a member of the ACF and we attended several meetings throughout the year, starting off with one in January 2011 in Pakse, Laos, and the last one held last week in Singapore.
In Singapore, we had the chance to listen to coffee experts of Bero Coffee on global coffee demand and the Head of Hans R. Neumann Stiftung, Michael Opitz, who spoke about sustainable development in coffee.
It might interest the reader to note that in 2020, coffee will be in short supply to the tune of 30 million bags per year (each bag is 60 kg). There are only 25 million producers of coffee with 80 percent of them in small holder communities. The shortage simply is a result of farmers not being happy with buying prices of coffee.
Secondly, there hardly is any help for farmers to increase their yields to say Vietnam’s 2 and a half kilos per tree or 2.5 metric tons per hectare. The Philippines’ average yield is 300-700 kgs per hectare and that is also why we keep losing farmers to other crops.
The shortage today is about two to three million bags of coffee worldwide.
Unorganized and independent farmers lose interest in growing coffee and end up abandoning their farms.
What will multinational companies do to stem this continuing loss of coffee farms? What will specialty coffee groups do to help farmers increase the value of their small production?
In my lifetime, I still would like to see coffee get back on its feet. How will we do this? We now formed this regional group, and hopefully we will get help from our governments, our finance ministers who will be drinking Asean coffee in the next coming days, and our NGOs, like the Hans Neumann Stiftung. Mr. Opitz has invited the ACF to visit the project in Vietnam so we can replicate the working model in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia and in other Asean member-countries as well. It all starts with Fair Trade, certifications for organic and sustainable farming, and other mechanisms to ensure that the farmer gets a fair share of coffee profits.
In this week’s MANILA 2012 or the Philippine hosting of the 45th Annual Board of Governors’ meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to be held in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and SMX Convention Center from May 2 to 5, the PCB and the ACF will join hands with the Department of Finance in making everyone aware of the state of the coffee industry, not just in the country but in the whole region.
We will be serving the Asean Blend to the ADB delegates and will be selling some for them to take home and so that coffee can get prime space in their priority lists for assistance. We will also serve a variety of single origin coffees, from the Philippines and other Asean countries. All for free.
Yes, we have to discuss economics, but through a lifestyle product like coffee, we hope to get the region’s Finance ministers’ attention for a crop that needs a shot in the arm, regionally and globally.
The demand for coffee continues to rise with China’s population starting to drink coffee and with the rise in demand for instant coffee mixes and specialty coffees. There are local chains like CaffeBene, Twosome, Angel in Us Coffee in Korea; there are chains in Japan like Tullys and some local brands; there are the international chains in China and Taiwan. Most of all, there are many more people born every day in Asia, who start to drink coffee at a young age.
Think about coffee the next time an investment opportunity comes up in a discussion. Here in our country, we need a minimum of four million seedlings planted this year before 2015, when the AFTA will erase all tariffs. It only takes three years for a coffee tree to bear fruit (some can do it in 24 months, they say) but if we do not move now to pay better prices for coffee and plant a million seedlings each year, we may have to start thinking of another drink by 2020. Or pay maybe $5 a cup for the precious brew.
We hope to call on NGOs, government and coffee aficionados to get on board and do a thing or two for the most important drink of the day … coffee.
(The author is the vice president of the Management Association of the Philippines. She is founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms in Serendra and Podium malls. She also heads the PCB and the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous articles, visit map.org.ph).
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=56471