September 13 and 14, 2022 will be remembered for the groundbreaking Philippine Coffee Expo (PCE) in Davao. After a long absence and online activities, the thousands attending were obviously thrilled to at least see the face behind the screen so to speak, and reinvigorate relationships and marvel at new opportunities. Well attended by thousands, mainly young people, the event was all over social media, allowing an even bigger audience to view what was going on.
The event was hosted by the various coffee industry stakeholders such as the the Philippine Coffee Guild and the Davao Region Coffee Council It was also supported by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Trade and Industry, in collaboration with thePhilCAFE Project which is funded by USDA and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.
Why is this event important? There are four reasons. For one, it is a rare event that brings together the different stakeholders at every step of the value chain, from the farmers growing the beans to the processors and the equipment suppliers for processing and eventually, those serving it to customers through the coffee shops, both the established ones and start up and pop up barista owned outfits which are popular nowadays. Walking through the exhibits and looking at the conference program, this clearly is the case. Moreover, a good number of the attendees and exhibit visitors were young people, and with them the food and restaurant vloggers. This indicates strong interest from a new set of farmers and entrepreneurs.
Another reason is that the potential for the local coffee industry to grow is enormous as there is a huge local supply gap to fill, and Mindanao is poised to benefit most from this opportunity. Based on the Coffee Industry roadmap, the country produces 36,171 metric tons of coffee per year in 2015. Of this figure, Mindanao produces almost 2/3 of our total coffee production. Cavite and Batangas may be the traditionally known sources of local coffee culture, but it is clear that Mindanao is its future. I believe we as a country import at least double that figure annually. Imagine the opportunity to supply local demand alone. Moreover, as our Mindanao coffees gain renown, demand for it here and abroad will also increase.
These two factors alone will translate to a larger market for our producers, and opportunity for both growers processors, and coffee shops.
The third is that growing coffee, a perennial crop, is good for our watersheds because they are trees, stabilizing slopes, conserving soil and holding water. Having more trees will protect our water sources for us to use.
The fourth is that coffee, especially lower elevation Robusta which makes up ¾ of our total coffee production, can be intercropped with our biggest crop subsector, coconuts to add farm income, apart from the fact that it is a low cost addition to the farm, since crop maintenance will consist only of fertilizing as no cost for soil preparation is involved. Fertilizing the coffee trees will also fertilize the coconut crop, with both benefiting from the added nutrients to cause higher yields.
In all, the event is made special since unlike other similar conferences, it broke important ground by visibly exemplifying the value chain, which is made possible by the fact that it is led by the coffee industry itself. This integration of the various industry subsectors and elements will spur the development of the industry, and create new opportunity for thousands in Mindanao, from growers to coffee shop owners. This makes the industry inclusive to a wide set of stakeholders, spreading the opportunity. With this, the future of the farm to cup value chain is secure. Bravo.