What can a province with limited growing area for farm crops grow with definite advantage? Something special. Something of high value.
In the case of Mountain Province in the Cordilleras, Juliet Lucas, OIC of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), they are promoting Arabica coffee, colored rice and organic vegetables.
It is for very good reasons, according to Juliet. Arabica coffee is considered as the most flavorful coffee variety that commands a higher price than other varieties. It can be best grown in the cool climate of the Mountain Province, under pine trees or under some other trees that provide partial shade.
We met Juliet during the coffee farm tour and roundtable discussion under the auspices of the DTI in Tabuk City recently. As part of the coffee-growing thrust in the Cordilleras, Coffee 101 will be conducted this September 30 in Sagada, one of the cooler towns of the Mountain Province.
In Coffee 101, experts discuss good agricultural practices (GAP) in growing Arabica coffee from seedling selection, land preparation, planting, fertilizing to harvesting, processing and then marketing. The seminar workshop is attended by men and women who would like to go into coffee production, or people who are already growers but who would like to be updated on improved practices.
Aside from discussing the fine points of coffee growing, the attendees will also hear about the trends in the coffee business, that include the mushrooming of coffee shops. The experts will demonstrate proper grading of beans as well as how to operate a coffee shop.
On October 1, the attendees will visit old coffee farms as well as new ones. They will be planting their own coffee trees in the new farm, complete with their nametags. Their last destination will be the visit to the Sagada Coffee Growers and Processors Organization where they will observe proper roasting and grinding of coffee beans. Finally, they will prepare their own cups of coffee.
Scientific interventions are necessary in order to increase bean production as well as to achieve higher quality products. Ordinarily, Arabica coffee grown by farmers without improved practices will produce 400 grams to 600 grams per tree, according to Juliet. She said she gets an average of 600 grams per tree in her own farm.
With improved practices, she said, production per tree could reach 800 grams to 1.5 kilos of green beans. There’s a significant increase in income per tree with good agricultural practices. Green beans, i.e., the skin and seed cover are removed, command P200 to P250 per kilo. Thus, if the tree grown under GAP will give just one kilo, the gross income from one tree will be P200 to P250 per year.
On the other hand, trees under ordinary farmer’s practice, may give an average of 500 grams of green beans. That’s just worth P100 per tree.
Therefore, even if the farmer would only have one hundred productive trees, producing one kilo of green beans per tree, that will mean a gross of P20,000; with 500 trees, that would be P100,000. Without good agricultural practices, the farmer with 100 trees will just gross P10,000. So the interventions being introduced by the government agencies are very important in increasing the incomes of the coffee growers in the Cordilleras.
COLORED RICE – Besides Arabica coffee, the government agencies in Mt. Province are also promoting the production of colored rice which sells for about P90 per kilo, according to Juliet.
The colored rice are excellent not only for ordinary rice consumption. They are also good for making rice cakes like ‘patupat’ and ‘inandila’. These native cakes also go well with coffee.
ORGANIC VEGGIES – Juliet says that farmers in the Mountain Province grow a lot of cool climate vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, wongbok, broccoli and others. The new trend, she says, is producing organic vegetables. These insecticide-free veggies command practically double the price of conventionally grown varieties.