New listing to earn farmers double by just protecting the variety.

The coffee variety called “Arabica” is now officially in the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste as the number of trees in Benguet continues to dwindle. Many reasons contribute to its declining population, such as climate change coupled with the diminishing interest of the younger generation to go into coffee farming.

In the Slow Food Presidia program, the focus will be to preserve the variety by encouraging farmers to protect it from extinction. This can be supported by coffee drinkers, who can consciously choose to drink more Benguet coffee to keep the farmers’ operations sustainable. “Choose Benguet whenever you can,” said Slow Food officer Elena Aniere, who presented to Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña and International Women’s Coffee Alliance-PH chapter president Pacita Juan the possibilities for Benguet Arabica.

Recently, Aniere, Laviña, and Juan met up at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, Italy to let Italian media and other international visitors taste the coffee. It was brought roasted and then brewed using a Japanese V-60 hand dripper by a master barista from Italy. The now endangered variety was also featured in the Alberto Marchetti Gelateria and Caffe in Via Po in downtown Turin.

Benguet is projected to produce over 400 metric tons of the variety, worth about ₱100 million at today’s market prices of ₱250 per kilo for green beans. Peaberry beans go for ₱300 per kilo. Manila roasters rush to Benguet to get what they can because of the increase in demand for this coffee due to its origin.

“We’re happy to find new markets for coffee just like for the Barako,” said Juan, currently also the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) co-chair and president. “With Benguet Arabica being listed in the Ark of Taste, international Slow Food advocates will surely want to taste [it].”

With renewed interest in the Benguet Arabica coffee variety, farmers will double their income (from what used to be ₱120 per kilo at farmgate prices) and will hopefully continue to propagate and plant this endangered kind. If all the produce will be sold to specialty markets, farmers can reach a potential income of ₱200 million even without roasting their coffee as many suggest they do, to add value.

For more details visit the website: www.philcoffeeboard. com or search Facebook for the Philippine Coffee Board, Slow Food Manila, and Kape Isla.

This story appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2017 issue.