Coffee, cacao growers in Iloilo targeted for cluster development

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To boost the coffee industry in Iloilo, the Department of Trade and Industry’s office in the province assists producers as well as local coffee shops like LoCo, which sources coffee from the towns of Leon, San Enrique, Dingle, Alimodian, Miag-ao, and Banate. -- BW/EMME ROSE S. SANTIAGUDO

THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) is pushing for the development of cacao and coffee in Iloilo, where several towns and cities have been identified as priority areas for the industry clusters strategy.

“Coffee and cacao are among the industries that we are assisting for our industry cluster enhancement program,” DTI-Iloilo Supervising Trade and Industry Development Specialist Esterlita M. Baddong said.

The other industries are coco paste products, processed fruits and nuts, housewares and wearables, and information communication technology.

Industry cluster promotion is a major DTI strategy under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, and aims to help small and medium enterprise (SMEs) establish alliances with government agencies and other institutions for product development and marketing.

For cacao, the growth areas identified are Passi City and the municipalities of Dingle, Pototan, San Enrique, New Lucena, Cabatuan, and Miag-ao.

“Last year, we provided a cacao shared service facility (SSF) in Dingle because they have planted 80 hectares of cacao. There is one enterprise in Dingle is are not only processing tablea (hot chocolate in tablet form) but also chocolate truffles and chocolate bars. But we need to help them in terms of technology,” she said.

Among the program’s beneficiaries are sugar planters who have converted their farms to cacao.

“Right now, we are levelling up because cacao has a big market not only in the Philippines but also abroad,” she said.

For coffee, the areas being developed are the towns of Barotac Viejo, San Enrique, Calinog, Lambunao, and Leon.

She said the growing popularity of local coffee shops provides a market for growers.

“There is a big potential for growth in coffee even just in the local market. We also have many local coffee shops that we are assisting and they too are looking for sources locally,” she said.

Local government units (LGUs) and organized groups such as cooperatives are considered part of the strategy as they will be handling the SSFs.

“The SSF projects are being given to certain groups or LGUs where there are potential industries in their locality to improve and enhance their productivity,” Ms. Baddong said.

The biggest challenge to the program, she added, is farmers’ attitudes towards new ideas and the motivation to develop quality products.

“There are also challenges that we also face because our farmers have been resisting our new technology. It’s really the farmers’ attitudes because we have a lot of potential in terms of coffee and cacao,” she said.

DTI-Iloilo Provincial Director Ermelinda P. Pollentes said the Negosyo Centers are helping to encourage farmers and SMEs explore new products.

She said, “It is really a challenge to have the mindset changed. That is why we have the Negosyo Centers that provide entrepreneurship (assistance), more or less to improve the mindset of SMEs and farmers.” — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo