Nestlé trains farmers to grow coffee

Posted on October 24, 2013

TAGUM CITY, DAVAO DEL NORTE -- Maria Teresa Agulto, a nurse by profession, decided to pursue her interest in coffee farming when she returned to this city two years ago.

Coffee beans are displayed at an event for Nescafé, a brand of Nestlé, in this undated file photo.
Ms. Agulto had been based in Manila until her husband died.

For two years now, she has been supervising a 1.5-hectare coffee farm about 10 minutes ride from the city proper.

“I did not regret (leaving Metro Manila and going into farming),” she said during a visit to her farm.

Ms. Agulto was among those Nestlé Philippines, Inc. helped in propagating coffee in this part of Mindanao.

The company has even assigned an agronomist to help her improve her farming method, said Ramon L. Parreño, farm manager of Nestlé Philippines.

Ms. Agulto, who sold her first harvest two years after she ventured into this business, has become a model for coffee farming in the province.

“In Tagum City, we have 10 farms that are small,” Mr. Parreño said.

The company helped her by providing farm inputs and technical assistance.

Mr. Parreño said the company initially identified only Talaingod -- a town in the province populated by indigenous peoples -- as suitable for coffee farming due to its soil quality. But when Tagum farmers saw the potential of the crop, they decided to go into coffee growing, realizing they could inter-crop coffee in their coconut plantations.

It was in 1994 when Nestlé decided to set up its demonstration farm in the city as the company saw the potential of growing the crop in the Davao Region. In 2010, the company started to roll out its “Nescafé Plan”, named after its coffee brand, which was anchored on a “create shared value” principle designed to help coffee farmers improve farming methods.

Under the plan, the company advocates not only responsible farming, but also responsible supply chain management. Based on the briefing materials of the company, the plan hopes to help farmers improve methods and, in the process, boost agriculture production and consequently rural development.

Its demonstration farm in the city is a “one-stop shop serving as a Robusta seedling production nursery, a local research and development center for new coffee selections, a training and techno-demo center, a buying station and a composting facility for organic fertilizer,” the materials read.

Nestlé has also implemented “Farmer Connect”, under which it acts as a direct buyer, eliminating middle men.

Under this program, the company has set up satellite buying stations to encourage farmers to directly sell their harvest based on global market prices.

“It also enables farmers to get the payment within eight banking hours,” the briefing material added.

Mr. Parreño said the company has provided technical assistance to farmers by letting them undergo training sessions at no expense.

To ensure that farmers maximize these sessions, the company limits number of trainees to 25 a month.

To qualify for training, a farmer should have an area for coffee farming.

The Tagum City facility is also a source of seedlings for coffee farmers. At present, the company can produce 25 million seedlings annually.

“We will provide you with the training, we will help you in your farm, but we will not make you sign any contract,” Mr. Parreño added.

Nestlé also provides incentives to farmers who can ensure that they produce the best beans using techniques and processes the company has taught them. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco