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DTI aids coffee farmers, keeps coffee industry alive in Ilocos Sur

Aside from growing rice and/or tobacco, farmers in upland municipalities in Ilocos Sur have grown and are harvesting coffee cherries for decades.
 
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), there are nine coffee growing municipalities in the province, namely, Sigay, Gregorio Del Pilar, Salcedo, Cervantes, Suyo, Sugpon, San Emilio, Quirino, and Alilem.
 
Recognizing the growing coffee industry in the province, the DTI has been helping coffee farmers in Ilocos Sur through its Industry Cluster Enhancement program, which aims to develop more globally integrated, highly sustainable and productive priority industry clusters such as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
 
Aside from conducting trainings to introduce new innovations to improve their products, the DTI is also helping the coffee farmers sell their products not just in the province but around the world.
 
In an interview with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Juana Bitongan, 50, Robusta coffee farmer from Gregorio Del Pilar town, told how DTI has helped save their business especially during the height of COVID-19 in 2020.
 
“Noong kasagsagan ng COVID-19, sobrang nahirapan kami sa paghahanap ng buyer sa coffee beans namin. Pero dahil sa DTI, nabenta namin ang mga ito. Kung wala ang DTI, nasayang lahat ng mga produkto namin,” Bitongan said.
 
Coffee farming was introduced to Bitongan in her childhood and she has been in such a venture ever since.
 
Because of this, she was able to finish school and now that she and her husband manage their farm, their income helps in paying for their son’s college expenses.
 
Through DTI, they are able to find more buyers and sell their products at reasonable prices.
 
“Noong hindi pa lumapit ang DTI sa amin, binebenta lamang namin sa halagang P50 hanggang P80 kada ganta, pero noong lumapit sila sa amin, tinuruan nila kami simula sa tamang paraan ng pagha-harvest, pagpapatuyo, at masusing pamimili ng mga butil kaya ngayon ay mas malaki na ang kinikita namin dahil mas de-kalidad na ang aming produkto at dahil ito sa DTI,” she said.
 
Ilocos’ coffee was also recognized nationwide through the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC), which started in 2018.
 
In 2019, Bitongan’s entry landed in the top 8.
 
“Noong 2020 walang PCQC dahil sa pandemic pero noong 2021, top 5 ako at nitong taon ay top 9,” she said.
 
Aside from her, Rodolfo Aciong of Quirino town landed first place and third place in the PCQC 2018 and 2019, respectively, and Mabini Ubuan of Sigay town emerged top 1 in the said competition in 2021 and 2022.
 
Ubuan's coffee variety was cupped and was showcased in an international cupping event held in Milan, Italy in June this year.
 

Juana Bitongan (L) and Felicidad Paulo (R) smile at the camera after an interview with the PIA Ilocos Sur staff on October 1, 2022. (jmcq)

One thing Bitongan and her co-coffee farmers in the community are worried about is how to keep the coffee industry alive in their municipality.
 
She said, now that coffee producing populations in their municipality are aging, they notice that the youth have less interest in coffee farming.
 
“Ang nais sana namin ay maturuan din ang mga kabataan sa mga paraang ito para may katulungan kami at upang sa gayon ay magpatuloy ang industriya ng pagkakape sa aming lugar kapag dumating ang panahon na hindi na namin kaya,” she said.
 
The DTI saw this as a great opportunity to reach more individuals so that coffee farming in the province will prosper.
 
They then assured that they will set up training for the youth as it is deemed vital to engage them for the coffee industry to continue for the generations to come. (JCR/AMB/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)

About the Author

Joyah Mae Quimoyog

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Region 1

A writer based in the heritage province of Ilocos Sur.

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