By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – An Arabica coffee farmer from Bansalan, Davao del Sur will fly to the US next month to represent the Philippines at the Specialty Coffee Expo (SCE) 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts after winning the top award in the recent 2019 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC).
Marivic Dubria, manager of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA), said her entry’s ranking improved from 2nd place in 2018 to 1st place this year out of 34 Arabica coffee entries submitted by growers from all over the Philippines.
Last year, Dubria also represented the country, along with five other Mindanao coffee farmers in the SCE 2018 in Seattle, Washington.
Aside from Dubria, there were four other farmers of BACOFA who made it to the top 12 under the Arabica variety category, namely: Agustin Timon (4th), Mario Luz Dubria (6th), and Sergio Soon (10th). Delio Cesar of Maragusan, Compostela Valley won 11th place under the Robusta variety category.
Dubria said she looks forward to promoting coffee from Davao del Sur in the three-day coffee expo in Boston that will start on April 11 where around 13,000 participants — growers, roasters, enthusiasts, retailers, and coffee experts — will gather.
Dubria, a former daycare teacher, said she wants to help the Philippine coffee industry attain the annual demand of 27,000 metric tons before going full throttle with export.
She declined an offer from a prospective American buyer to ship 20 tons of coffee beans to the US per year which is almost equivalent to the association’s annual production.
Despite the growing demand, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows a decline in the country’s coffee production from 75,454 metric tons in 2014; 72,341 MT in 2015; 68,822 MT in 2016; and 62,077 MT in 2017.
The region’s share of the 2017 production nationwide was 17 percent or 10,839.95 MT, consisting of Arabica (2,200.47 MT), Excelsa (1,258.09 MT), Liberica (75.47 MT), and Robusta (7,305.92 MT), according to PSA.
At present, BACOFA’s two foreign buyers are Canada and Japan. It also has 14 other buyers, most of them third wave coffee shops in Manila and Davao City.
BACOFA has 250 coffee grower-members working on about 400 hectares of coffee farms on the foothills of Mt. Apo.
What adds to the distinctive flavor of the BACOFA coffee is the volcanic soil, according to Dubria.
She said coffee growers in her community are becoming more open to new technology in coffee growing, harvesting, and processing to ensure good quality, unlike before when their elders are reluctant to be taught by much younger coffee growers like Dubria herself.
She said more people were encouraged to adapt best practices when they saw how BACOFA enjoys the huge market opportunity.