WOMEN Are Most Active In Cordillera Coffee Industry

WOMEN Are Most Active In Cordillera Coffee Industry
WOMEN Are Most Active In Cordillera Coffee Industry
Assistant Secretary Ceferino Rodolfo of the DTI and CAR regional director Myrna Pablo, Kalinga provincial director Grace Baluyan and Juliet Lucas of Mt. Province pose with Zita B. Degay (right) with her coffee products.

If you are invited to a coffee industry tour in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), you will readily notice that women are about the most active players in developing a viable coffee industry in the area.

That’s exactly what we noticed when the Department of Trade and Industry invited us to a media coffee tour in Kalinga last September 19. Most of the attendees in the roundtable discussion held at a hotel in Tabuk City were  women.

Development of the coffee industry in the CAR is a major thrust of the government to achieve the dreamed inclusive growth in the country. And for very good reasons.

Developing the coffee industry will involve the participation of small scale players. Coffee that is grown in the Cordillera is considered a special kind and even the small scale players, particularly the women, will be able to partake of the bounty that can be derived from Cordillera-grown coffee.

But the key players have to be assisted in a number of ways. And that is what the DTI and other government agencies and private organizations are providing. To fully exploit the special reputation of Cordillera-grown coffee, the products should be competitive in quality. And the necessary quality could be achieved by planting the right variety, proper growing techniques, harvesting, processing, packaging and branding.

The DTI, in particular, has been helping empower the women who are most active in the coffee industry. One way is linking the producers to the market. And one particular lady who has become some sort of a celebrity through the help of the DTI is Zita B. Degay, 61, of Bagumbayan, Upper Tabuk. She has become famous for her Kalinga Musang Coffee.

WOMEN Are Most Active In Cordillera Coffee Industry
ZITA B. DEGAY showing her Kalinga Musang Coffee.

Zita started to process Musang coffee in a small way in 2010. She was encouraged to pursue Musang coffee production when a former lady governor ordered 9 bottles containing 400 grams each, and brought the same to Manila. Then a former vice mayor also ordered from her for giving as gift to political supporters in Manila.

Then the DTI came into her life. She was selected as one of the beneficiaries of the Rural Micro Enterprises Program (RUMEP) funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations. As such she underwent training in various aspects of operating a small business.

In October 2013, the DTI facilitated the participation of Zita in the Coffee Origins, a national event organized by the Philippine Coffee Board. In this event, the public is invited to drink free coffee coming from different origins in the country. In that particular event held at the Greenbelt in Makati, three different civet coffees were offered for free tasting.

To Zita’s delight, her Musang coffee was the favored one by the tasters. As a result, she was able to receive orders for Musang coffee worth several hundred thousand pesos.  By the way, Musang coffee which is also called civet coffee, is processed from berries that are eaten by the civet cat or ‘musang’ and excreted as whole beans. It is considered gourmet coffee which commands a very high price.

From then on, improvements in packaging followed. And so are the orders. Zita has also used the financial bonanza to buy modern equipment such as roasters that cost P200,000, modern grinder (one for the Musang coffee and another for the ordinary coffee). She has also improved her packaging to become at par with the big players in the market.

Zita started processing Musang coffee in 2010 in a small way with packaging that needed much improvement. She also studied how to process the beans excreted by the civet cat so that the desired aroma will come out.

Zita continues to receive repeat orders from her customers. One executive of a well known hotel in Manila has been ordering 100 pouches of her 100-gram Musang Coffee which she sells for P500 per pack.

One of her biggest buyers is the Good Shepherd Convent in Baguio which is famous as a “pasalubong” source for tourists. Good Shepherd  buys each month at least 1,000 pieces of the 10-gram pack that she sells for P60 and 100 pieces each for other sizes like 50 grams, 100 grams, 200 grams, 300 grams and 400 grams.

HELPING WOMEN STAKEHOLDERS – In the meantime, DTI and other agencies continue to help the stakeholders who are mostly women in improving their productivity, product quality and marketing linkages. Every now and then a program called “Coffee 101” is conducted in different provinces in the region. In these events, the attendees listen to experts who expound practical ideas and techniques in selecting the best seedlings, care of the plants, proper harvesting, processing, marketing and so on. The attendees are also taught basic accounting and other tricks in the business.

POTENTIAL OF CORDILLERA COFFEE – Meanwhile DTI Assistant Secretary Ceferino Rodolfo emphasized at the roundtable discussion during the coffee media tour that there are “vast opportunities in the regional and global production networks that we can take advantage of. The quality of our coffee beans will be key to the success of Philippine coffee in the domestic and international markets.”

Rodolfo said that ASEAN, with its 608 million population and combined Gross Domestic Product of US$2.3 trillion, is an attractive market and a powerful economic bloc in global trade.

In the meantime DTI Regional Director Myrna Pablo of CAR said that “collaboration to support the coffee industry exists both on the national and local levels. Government agencies, coffee growers, and traders have been working since 2011 to prioritize the development of the coffee industry in the Cordilleras.”    

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