By Antonio L. Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has stalled the shipment of coffee to domestic and international buyers of the earthquake-affected Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA), the producers of the award-winning Arabica coffee grown on the foothills of Mt. Apo in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

BACOFA manager Marivic Dubria said the crisis has affected the deliveries of their world-class coffee since transportation has become difficult after various local government units have enforced the lockdown to control the spread of the COVID-19 and many of their buyers have temporarily closed shop during enhanced community quarantine.

“The COVID-19 has affected our deliveries of coffee since the buyers have already booked their orders with our coop and we’re ready to deliver them but it did not happen because most of our buyers are closed and transportation has become difficult since the outbreak began,” she said in vernacular.

After being rocked by a series of powerful earthquakes last year that destroyed their dryer and storage facilities, Dubria said BACOFA farmers expressed concern about the safety of their products.

Dubria said BACOFA farmers had focused on improving their production capacity while the country is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

She said the demand for specialty coffee in the country and abroad remained high, although transporting them to buyers has become difficult due to the crisis.

She said their stocks have already been contracted and that they are awaiting the resumption of the shipping to send their stocks to buyers. According to her, BACOFA’s production volume is currently 52 metric tons.

“We stopped for now but COVID-19 does not concern us that much because our stocks have been booked already,” she said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed coffee production in Mindanao 2018 reached 49,124 metric tons, lower by 3.58-percent as compared with 50,948.64 MT in 2017.

The Soccsksargen region produced 19,901 MT of coffee, the highest among Mindanao’s six regions.

Dubria said it was also unfortunate that the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition during the 4th Philippine Coffee Expo 2020 supposedly slated for April 2 to 3, 2020 in Davao City might no longer push through due to the outbreak.

She said BACOFA farmers would send supposedly 13 entries to the competition.

“Our farmers were excited to compete so that they would know their score and coffee grade, and they would eventually, be known in the market,” she said.

Winners of this year’s coffee competition will be flown over to Portland, Oregon on April 23 to 26, 2020 to represent the Philippines in the SCE 2020.

The Philippine Coffee Quality Competition is an annual event designed to identify and promote the best quality coffees in the Philippines, he said.

The purpose of the competition is to “motivate producers to improve the quality of their coffees and to enhance market access by helping popularize the winning coffees to specialty buyers.”

Among the goals of the competition include having the specialty coffee here known in the global coffee industry by performing evaluations aligned with globally accepted grading and profiling protocols as well as applying the standards of the Coffee Quality Institute and to open more selling and pricing opportunities to Philippine coffee farmers.