When coffee takes a break

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By Sylvelyn Jo Almanzor, Contributor

DLSU’s Food and Water Institute offers a policy brief to boost the battered Philippine coffee industry amid the Covid-19 crisis.

This year, when we celebrated Labor Day, extra effort was shown towards service industry workers, along with medical workers, to thank them for remaining at the forefront by continuously working amidst today’s toughest conditions. When COVID-19 hit the Philippines, it brought about death and it also put the country’s business sector to a halt—affecting all areas of our labor force.  In the Philippine coffee sector, this refers to every person in the value chain—farmers, producers, traders, roasters, shop owners, baristas, equipment distributors, and training schools.

As the country’s leading research university, De La Salle University’s Food and Water Institute, in partnership with the Philippine Coffee Guild, gathered data from across the chain to develop a policy brief that would aid legislators, authorities, and entrepreneurs in understanding where the industry lies during this crisis, and present empirical-based recommendations in order to address current concerns.

The policy brief inputs from the Philippine coffee industry’s various stakeholders who represent their workforce behind micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In the pilot case, DTI’s 2017 Policy Brief concerns were addressed and new recommendations have been made. After having conducted the survey, the policy brief recommends at the agency-level:

  • stimulating current and future demand to address the new normal’s safety protocols brought about by changes and/or decrease of in-store sales;
  • encouraging flexible lease terms with landlords and providing grants/loans/tax holidays;
  • boosting and establishing security for online payment platforms;
  • supporting research and innovation to increase product value, which also cater to further efficiency and safety of products;
  • facilitating movement of farm produce, establishing and enforcing Fair Prices for and trading of green coffee beans;
  • providing support and assistance to café employees;
  • banning collection, consumption, and sale of coffee defecated by animals, especially since infections can be transmitted from animals to humans; and
  • establishing a micro task force specifically for the coffee industry that is line with the Philippine coffee road map.

The policy brief was developed to address concerns arising from the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). The pandemic has brought down sales across the chain, limited logistics, delayed payments, placed international transactions on hold, and most of all, placed most of the workforce into further poverty through forced loans and/or No-Work-No-Pay situations.

What lies ahead requires much preparation. The projected switch to instant coffee would mean that coffee farmers and producers may compromise fair pricing or abandon the industry completely. A decrease in sales for coffee is also projected—an absolute zero for in-store consumption under the ECQ—and unless a vaccine is developed and made available to all, most consumers would avoid dining in.

Ethically-sourced coffee supports both the importance of direct trade and  agriculture, and the value of the service industry. It is important then to find more humane ways to address the break of the industry under this crisis and collaborative work among participants of the industry might just be what is needed to push for better policies that benefit across the chain.

About the contributor

Sylvelyn Jo Almanzor worked as a barista at The Curator Coffee and Cocktails and is the communications officer of the Philippine Coffee Guild. Meanwhile, she is also a literature teacher at De La Salle University, where she is currently finishing her doctorate.

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