Processing of Arabica Coffee Now Easier
(by Erwin S. Embuscado  8/2/2010)



Small coffee growers in Benguet have one more good reason to be glad. That's because the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) has introduced postharvest technologies and systems to solve the laborious and tedious operation of processing green coffee bean.

While arabica coffee remains as a backyard crop because of the limited number of trees grown and the small farm sizes they allot for coffee farming, Benguet is still the highest producer of arabica coffee in the Cordillera region.

According to Benguet folks, it is considered as one of the best and expensive varieties of coffee. It is also known for its good aroma and distinctive taste.

The arabica coffee can thrive well in a partly shaded area and in Benguet it is grown organically because it does not use inorganic fertilizer and pesticides. Moreover, it has also the edge with the other varieties because of the climatic condition and the good soil in the upland areas.


PROBLEMS OF THE INDUSTRY


According to PHilMech researchers Rodelio G. Idago, Renita SM. Dela Cruz and Mary Joy Paico of the study `Supply Chain Improvement of Arabica Coffee in the Cordillera Region`, the supply chain of arabica coffee in Benguet is hampered by problems like low production of green coffee beans for processing and the poor quality because of poor postharvest practices and outdated postharvest facilities.

The study revealed the lack of technologies like pulpers, hullers and moisture meter for coffee which causes inefficiencies in the postharvest system.

The high number of broken beans found in arabica coffee of Benguet was also cited why it belongs to class four using the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) green coffee classification method. The SCAA method is used in grading coffee beans according to the number of primary defects.

The traditional pulping and hulling produce an average broken beans of 6.17 percent and 8.06 percent, respectively. The SCAA classification method indicates that to be categorized as class one coffee, it should have only zero to five defects; class two coffee, six to eight defects; class three coffee, nine to 23 defects; class four coffee, 24 to 86 defects and class five coffee, above 86 defects.

To address these problems, the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani- High Value Commercial Crops (GMA-HVCC) program of the Department of Agriculture included coffee as one of the priority commodities to be developed in the next ten years because of its great demand here and abroad.

PHilMech as an agency mandated to spearhead the postharvest industry contributed in increasing the opportunities of the producers and entrepreneurs as well as the exportation of specialty coffee through the provision of appropriate postharvest technologies.


TECHNOLOGIES AND SYSTEMS INTRODUCED


Having identified the problems confronting the coffee industry particularly on the supply chain, PHilMech introduced postharvest technologies and systems to improve the production of the said commodity.

`With the introduction of matched postharvest technologies like the manual coffee pulper, huller and moisture meter operated as a system, the high incidence of broken bean was reduced by 50 percent,` said Rodelio G. Idago, acting chief of the Socio-Economic Research Section.

Reducing the broken bean corresponds to significant improvement in the quality. `From class five, it went up to class two. This is now accepted by the specialty coffee processors because their only requirement is class three,` Idago added.

The manual coffee pulper is made of locally available materials. It is portable because pulping operation is done at the farm. Another good thing about this technology is its reduction of broken beans because of the rubber material used in its depulping cylinder.

It has a capacity of 40 to 50 kg/hr and can be operated by one person. `It is also gender-friendly, because women can also operate the technology,` Idago said. The price of the equipment is P4,500 per unit compared to other pulper where the price ranges from P5,000 to P7,000 per unit.

Another postharvest facility introduced is the coffee huller. This technology has a capacity of 200 to 250 kg/hr and is run by three horse power electric motor. The facility is placed in a processing building accessible to the farmers. The farmers just bring their harvest at the processing center for hulling and pay a certain fee to sustain the operation of the processing center.

`This system was designed in a way that ordinary farmers and cooperatives can purchase the equipment on their own,` Idago said.

Also, with the help of a private company engaged in research and development for agricultural instrumentation and controls, the coffee moisture meter was developed.

The coffee moisture meter has a digital read out and easy to use. The material used in calibrating the equipment was taken from Cordillera to assure that the characteristics of the coffee from Cordillera will be considered by the instrument's program.

Through this device, the moisture content of the coffee can be measured accurately before storage or marketing. `The postharvest systems introduced to the Benguet coffee growers is specific only in Cordillera. However, it may also be apply to other arabica coffee growing areas with similar conditions to Benguet,` Idago said.

Based on the result of the study, farmers who adopted the system had an incremental income of P1,152 per season for the 50kg of green coffee bean. This is because of the reduced labor cost and improved quality of the green coffee bean.


TECHNOLOGY ADOPTERS


The cooperators in the pilot testing of the project were the Tuba Benguet Coffee Growers Association (Tubengcoga) and the Kibungan Arabica Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (KAGMPC). These two organizations were already into green coffee bean processing, in fact the KAGMPC in Kibungan, Benguet identified coffee as their One Town, One Product (OTOP).

Cesar Tayawan, 36, of Sitio Bumasgao, Tuba, Benguet is one of the coffee farmers who tried the pulper developed by PHilMech.

Tayawan is into coffee farming for three years now with around 1,500 trees. His venture into coffee production was influenced by Elias Paus, one of the leading coffee growers in Tuba.

Based on their experience, first time users of coffee pulper can depulp one sack of coffee for three hours, while experts can do it in 30 minutes. `The technology is good. It is fast and time-saving,` shares Tayawan.

`Many farmers in Tuba are now into coffee farming because of the high income,` he added.

Another coffee grower in Tuba, Benguet who finds coffee farming as a profitable venture is Luis Manis, 71, of Taloy Sur. He is a former utility worker in a government agency who engaged into coffee production after his retirement.

Manis considered coffee as a second crop because he also grows temperate vegetables as well as oranges. His 300 bearing coffee trees can be found under the mahogany trees he planted in 2001.

He is a first time user of coffee pulper developed by PHilMech. He learned the technology through the municipal agriculture office of Tuba. Earlier on, he is using a personally designed pulper made of wood which he found inefficient.

When asked how he can compare the performance of the two pulpers, `This is fast compared to the traditional pulper I am using made of wood and the output has no breakage. We need this kind of equipment, especially the small coffee growers like us,` he said.

Much remains to be done in the coffee industry of Benguet especially on how to increase its production. If the coffee growers can meet the market demand, farmers are assured of higher income because arabica coffee commands a higher price especially in the world market.


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2012 Department of Agriculture
Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization