Cordillera region cited as potential hub for tea growing in Northern Philippines

Government officials have sought support from the business community and diplomats of China Embassy for making the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) as production hub for tea in the Northern Philippines.

During the Pandesal Forum of Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City on Thursday, June 29, they said that the cool, mountainous rolling terrains of the region are ideal for growing tea.

Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas said that his region is well-known for agriculture and the possibility of adding tea as a high-value crop would be a big boost for Benguet agriculture.

Diclas asked the Filipino-Chinese business community, the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII), foreign investors from China, and all other entrepreneurs to invest in tea production ventures in his region.

“Once the tea production will strengthen in our region, this would greatly help in poverty alleviation, environmental protection of rolling terrains, and boost our future ecotourism,” said Diclas.

Research conducted by Dominique Molintas, who undertook academic and scientific study on the feasibility of growing tea in her native province of Benguet, showed the great adaptability potential of tea production in the Cordillera region.

Molintas is also soliciting support from the FFCCCII and the China Embassy.

With the result of the study, Dr. Gerald Glenn F. Panganiban, director of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), considered the inclusion of the tea in the list of high-value crops in the country.

“On the DA side, maybe we can include tea in the list of high-value crops if it is included in the Benguet Provincial Industry Development Plans,” said Panganiban.

“The DA-BPI has five research centers around the country where we can try tea varieties needed by the market. Once we found out the needed and appropriate varieties, we could upscale tea farming in selected areas,” said Panganiban.

“I think tea also has agri-tourism potential like what Osulloc Tea did on Jeju Island in South Korea. For your information, the Philippines imported 134 metric tons of tea in January to May 2023 from Vietnam and China,” Panganiban added.

Dr. Cecilio Pedro, FFCCCII president, expressed his full support for modernization of Philippine agriculture, including the development of tea plantations, saying that tea is a popular global commodity and a very healthy drink for people. He advised the proponents of Philippine tea to study the market conditions, quality growing, and business strategies to popularize Philippine or Cordillera tea.

China Embassy Second Secretary Bai Xun and Attache Cao Mengdi both said they support the proposed propagation of tea plantations in northern Philippines not only to assist the Philippine socio-economic development but also to promote tea culture and appreciation as a way of life.

Bai Xun cited that in some mountainous rural areas of China, tea plantations had helped in poverty alleviation efforts by uplifting the incomes of rural farming communities.

Bai and Cao also said China-Philippines agriculture and aquaculture cooperation has been one of the important components of both countries’ traditional good friendly relations.

Bai said China has been the Philippines’ No. 1 biggest trade partner for the past seven consecutive years, with continued positive momentum now that the Philippines has joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (RCEP) and also China’s opening its multi-billion dollar durian market for Filipino durian farmers.

Cao also added that there is an old Chinese saying that “We need salt, we need oil, and we need tea.”

Pandesal Forum moderator and FFCCCII Public Information and Media Committee Chairman Wilson Lee Flores said all sectors of the Philippines should help Cordillera region farmers develop Philippine tea plantations for economic benefits and for its tourism potential, too.

Flores said that “tea” is not only popular in Asia, Middle East, and Europe as many people also love milk tea.