Two years ago we, the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) moved our banner events Coffee Origins and Coffee Summit to Davao City after spending a good 12 years in Greenbelt and Glorietta Malls in Makati City. These twin events made us meet coffee stakeholders at least once a year, and we consulted them on what they wanted to do next.
Further, the Coffee Origins exhibit allowed consumers to taste Philippine coffee for free for almost two weeks, day after day. Yes, we were the only crazy ones giving away coffee to everyone for many years now.
In 2014, we took the plunge. We packed our bags and moved the events to Davao. No less than Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was invited to speak and open the event on October 13, 2014 through the invitation facilitated by Sonny Dizon, a coffee grower and processor of the award-winning Mt. Apo Kapatagan Arabica coffee.
I remember the newspaper headline photos the day after. Mayor Duterte and our Chairman Nicky Matti in a huddle over coffee, Sonny Dizon and the mayor onstage talking about coffee, not drugs or crime. Coffee. Well they say it’s the most legal of drugs as it is known to be a nerve stimulant. It is legal in Davao and across the world.
What I cannot forget is the offer of Mayor Duterte to plant coffee in Davao’s barren areas. I was excited to know that he made sure our Chair Nicky went on a chopper ride to see these areas that could be planted to coffee. Immediately, the next day, Nicky had to go and check the aerial view of the potential additional coffee expansion areas. That is urban legend now. The drive of the mayor to do things quickly and the political will to do anything he thinks humanly possible.
So now that you have been elected Mr. President we hope this will be the shining era for Mindanao coffee. Now, we can put our heart and soul into what we discussed just two years ago. Who would have thought this mayor would now be our country’s 16th President?
We recall Sonny Dizon’s many forays into asking development agencies to help us plant more coffee. We are reminded of his passion to bring foreign coffee chain owners to source Mindanao or Davao coffee, to get us on the global coffee map. Well, Sonny, it has come closer to us. The mayor , now President, should remember what he told us—Davao can be the coffee center of the country!
We have the altitude and the attitude to make coffee from Mt. Apo , Mt. Matutum and Mt. Kitanglad known around the world. Now we have to make it good and plant as many coffee trees. Despite climate change, and the discouraging temperatures Mindanao has always been special for its micro climates. So to Mindanao we give the task of expanding our coffee areas. For right now, we have good Arabicas coming from Mt. Apo, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon and Matutum in Cotabato, At the rate we drink coffee, we need to plant millions of coffee trees, and Mindanao may be the most ideal place to do this. Beyond failed government attempts, we know we can still do it.
Back to the roadmap for coffee, we remind Mayor Duterte that coffee needs Mindanao to be the most active area for expansion. We consume more than we produce and coffee can very well put money in the hands of our farmers. It’s the only crop that can be stored after harvest without getting spoiled. It’s the only crop that has a higher demand than production (well, aside from Cacao, which is another crop needing expansion).
Thank you for being there two years ago, Mayor Duterte. We know you are there for the coffee industry . We know you can plant more coffee!
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra ,Salcedo Village, Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Iloilo and Antipolo City. She also is Chair of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org