Friday, July 24, 2009

Coffee Planting Month -- Philippines

Thanks to my colleague Henry Lucas for finding this article about efforts to make the Philippines self-sufficient in coffee. The Philippine Coffee Board is promoting a return to coffee production throughout the country -- not for export, but just to reduce dependence on imports from Indonesia and Vietnam.

Depending on the practices adopted, this could be very good not only for the economic condition of Philippine farmers, but also for wildlife, water quality, and the carbon cycle. The program encompasses many parts of the country and includes both high-quality and lower-quality varieties.

Throughout the world, small farmers and their communities have been displaced by low-cost competition from abroad (as described in the film Food, Inc. I must admit that everything I know about the Philippine coffee business I learned from this article, but I do know that the competition in Vietnam is pernicious.

The Philippine model would serve farmers in other coffee-growing regions well. I have been pleased to see that the coffee served in cafes and hotels in Guatemala is often (though not always) local, but the coffee served in most places in Nicaragua is imported -- low quality junk that has been processed by multinationals. One important barrier is that processing requires capital and specialized knowledge that have traditionally been lacking within producer countries.

Congratulations to the PCB for its coffee-planting campaign!

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