If you think that there ‘s no agricultural crop that thrives well tinder pine trees, you’re wrong.
These trees which Cordillera folk used to cut down to get rid of its acidity and to expand the agricultural area in the mountains are helpful in the production of Arabica coffee, another lucrative agribusiness. It is what the Benguet State University (BSU) has found out through its 10-hectare demonstration farm for Arabica coffee production in Bektey, La Trinidad, Benguet.

BSU professor and demo farm manager Valentino Macanes said that Arabica coffee plants like the shade that pine trees provide. He also explained that if coffee farmers produced arabica coffee through this agroforestry system technology, the problem on the degradation of pine forests and Cordillera watersheds, which resulted from the cutting of pine trees, would be addressed.

This knowledge is not anymore new and it took about ten years since the demo farm was established in 1977 before the Cordillerans appreciated this technology. And if only they earlier had, the degradation could have been prevented.

Macanes also said that while they were establishing the demo farm, they were also documenting the best practices on Arabica coffee production. These practices now come as a techno guide entitled Arabica Coffee Production Under Benguet Pine. They also established a coffee post-harvest and processing center, which boosted the promotion, revival, and expansion of the Arabica coffee industry in the region.

Local government units (LGUs) in Cordillera see a good future in the coffee industry. Macanes said that Cordillera has great potential to become the country’s major coffee producer. And why not? After all, Cordillera with its elevation has a distinct advantage over other regions when it comes to coffee production. Moreover, four of the commercial coffees cultivated worldwide thrive in the Cordillera, and these are Robusta, Liberica, Excelsa and of course, Arabica.

The main coffee crop of Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, and Kalinga is Robusta, and there are also some Liberica and Arabica in these provinces. But in Benguet and Mt. Province, Arabica is the main coffee crop although there are Liberica and Robusta planted in the lowland areas. The Arabica coffee varieties in both provinces are typical, Bourbon, and San Ramon.
In the demo farm, the varieties there are typical, Bourbon, San Ramon, improved San Ramon, Granica, Mundo Nove, Moka, Caturra, Kenya, and MSAC selection no. 1.
Despite all the efforts, coffee is still a backyard crop in Cordillera, but this may change in the near future as global and local demand for coffee has been increasing. Researchers at the Cordillera Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CIARC) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) noted that due to this trend, more small-scale coffee processors prefer coffee varieties from the Cordillera.
Surveys undertaken by CIARC reveal that among coffee brewers in the region, processed Arabica coffee from Benguet and Mt. Province is much preferred because of its good liquor quality, which is attributed to the acidity of the coffee beans.

In an interview with Zizag, a weekly newspaper in Baguio City, Cordillera Coffee Assistant Manager Annie Valdez said that the demand for Arabica coffee is very high that farmers cannot meet the demand. “If more farmers will invest in Arabica planting, the [coffee] industry will boom,” she said.
To take, the advantage of this opportunity, Macanes said that Cordillera coffee farmers should maximize the region’s edges in coffee production which are climate and elevation. He recommends planting Arabica coffee in areas with an elevation of 1,000 to 1,500 meters above sea level (MASL) for the plant to produce top-quality coffee. It is still possible to produce a quality commercial coffee crop at 1,600 MASL up to 1,800 MASL.

Nestle-Philippines promotes the production, rehabilitation, and expansion of the Arabica coffee industry in the cordillera since the total production of green coffee beans is only 28,000 metric tons (MT). This is far below the domestic demand for coffee beans, which is 55,000 MT. To satisfy the demand, the country imports around 27,000 MT from Vietnam and Indonesia.
The DA also promotes Arabica coffee production in the region. It is currently validating around 25,000 hectares in the region for Arabica coffee production. It is also pushing the development of the Cordillera Arabica Coffee Program with P278,426,000 budget for 10 years.

Moreover, DA’s GMA-High Value Commercial Crops Program in the region has distributed 132,650 Arabica coffee seedlings since 2002 to LGUs, schools, and non-government organizations that have planted Arabica coffee and other trees as part of their reforestation and community re-greening and beautification projects.

Mt. Province, that is set to complete its target to plant 3 million trees in communal land this year tops all the LGUs that have pushed for Arabica coffee planting. It is followed by Baguio, Benguet, and Ifugao, respectively.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has also been providing Arabica coffee seedlings and encouraging its farmer-cooperators to integrate the crop in its agroforestry program. The National Irrigation Administration-CAR has already integrated Arabica coffee planting in their campaign to reforest the region’s watersheds, the sources of domestic and irrigation water.

Author's Bio: 

An observer of organic farming, Focus on Bio-solution for sustainable agriculture.