IN areas where water is very scarce and still uncultivated in Ilocos Norte, farmers are being encouraged to plant the high value coffee crop as it does not require much water and expensive farm inputs.
Edwin Cariño, head of the Ilocos Norte Special Projects and Development Office, said this is one of the top priorities in the province and vowed to provide assistance to Ilocano farmers interested in shifting to coffee planting.
“The provincial government will not only provide coffee seedlings to interested farmers but also technical assistance from our Provincial Agriculture Office,” Cariño said.
Cariño assured the market demand for coffee remains high in the national level citing data from the Department of Agriculture that an average Filipino consumes 1.2 kilos of coffee annually.
The Philippines imports between 75,000 metric tons to 100,000 MT of coffee from Vietnam and Indonesia annually at a cost of P7 to P10 billion.
Local farmers only have the capacity to produce 25,000 MT of coffee annually. Local demand for coffee is now placed at 75,000 MT annually and is seen to rise to 100,000 MT in the coming years.
“We are getting positive response and some farmers have already expressed their interest in this endeavor and we are encouraging more Ilocanos to utilize their uncultivated lands for agricultural purposes,” Cariño said.
He said promoting high value crops in Ilocos Norte is part of the provincial government’s thrust for agricultural sustainability.
“We have been doing this through our flagship agricultural program ‘Paspas Dur-as Biag ti Away’ [rapid development in the rural areas],” Governor-elect Imee Marcos said.
Marcos said that engaging in the coffee industry will raise economic activity in the province in the long run as it creates an alternative source of livelihood for Ilocano farmers.
Meanwhile, Vie Reyes, the executive director of Bote Central and a member of the Philippine Coffee Alliance, also urged Filipino farmers to roast their own beans to raise their incomes from their produce.
“Farmers earn less because they sell raw coffee beans. If farmers roasted their coffee, they stand to earn double or triple the amount,” Reyes said.
A kilo of raw Arabica beans costs P100 per kilogram but when roasted the price easily reaches up to P400 per kilogram.
“Those who control the green beans, control the market,” Reyes added.
LEANDER C. DOMINGO