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Trader expects self-sufficiency in coffee crop to be possible soon

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HENRY & SONS, a coffee trader, said that it expects self-sufficiency to be possible in the Philippine coffee market as the industry strives to improve both volume and quality.

In an e-mail interview, Henry & Sons president and chief executive officer Michael Harris Conlin said: “In the next five years, we see the local coffee industry engrossed with increasing not just the quantity but the bean quality as well. There is a current push for expanding our research into coffee planting, harvesting and processing with the goal of further elevating the flavor and quality of our coffee produce.”

“The country’s self-sufficiency in coffee is, for us, the ultimate dream, and if we work our hardest, we’re positive it can come to fruition in the nearest possible future. It helps to remember that we were once a major producer in Asia, exporting as much as $100 million worth of coffee beans annually. If not for the problems besetting our producers then, we would not have lost our niche in the global market,” Mr. Conlin added.

Henry & Sons launched the Foundation for Sustainable Coffee Excellence (FSCE) in November 2016. FSCE aims to improve the coffee industry’s quality standards to make it once again a prominent source of quality beans.

Among FSCE’s programs is the Beans within Reach program which seeks to encourage farmers to produce a better-quality bean by matching them with global buyers.

Another program is the Cup to Seed which funds livelihood programs and post-harvest facilities. For youth training and educational assistance toward the youth, FSCE’s corresponding program is called Coffee for Great Minds.




“We want to be able to support a methodology that is science-based yet practical for farmers to apply. Our aim is for this methodology to be publicly-available, launched, campaigned, and passed on to Filipino farmers on a nationwide scale so that farmers, their families, and coffee businesses can benefit from it. This is in support of our goal to strengthen current agricultural practices and bridge the gap whenever necessary,” Mr. Conlin said.

“Our programs have us working closely with the farmers. We’re here to show and convince them that the better they take care of their trees and their processing of the beans, the higher the price they can command. This is their, and our ticket to getting into the international market,” Mr. Conlin said.

Mr. Conlin noted that Benguet is one of the best places to grow Arabica coffee in the country because of its high elevation.

“We remain hopeful that coffee producers will have mastered practices that help them yield crops with better cup scores in five years’ time. The industry could also benefit from having these systems replicated on a wider scale,” Mr. Conlin said.

According to Mr. Conlin, Henry & Sons sees a higher need for knowledge and technical training all through the production chain from farm to barista.

“Education and skills training will be at the forefront as these are your first consumer point of contact. If new improvements in the beans are not translated into a good cup, quality suffers when it reaches that part of the service cycle. The accessibility of tools coupled with a desire to innovate will surely allow coffee businesses to expand their coffee experiences and direct it towards promoting Filipino coffee, making it more world-recognized,” Mr. Conlin said.

“Innovating from a farmer’s standpoint, improving from the ground up, is the kind of direction we need to take as this will be most beneficial not only to the farming communities but to the front-end barista profession. As for business performance, we predict favorable outcomes and continued prosperity in the coming years not only because of our commitment to quality and the sustainable practices we put in place, but also because of the positive returns granted by the progressive impact our advocacies helped generate in the local coffee trade,” he added.

Henry & Sons backs The Giving Cafe, a coffee shop where proceeds help the coffee growing communities of La Trinidad to promote sustainable farming. The company will soon launch its food and beverage pop-up Giving Cart at a Metro Manila train station, Mr. Conlin said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio