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Local coffee producers to export ‘barako’ to Switzerland

Coffee drinkers in Switzerland will soon wake up to the taste of the Philippines’s beloved “kapeng barako” as local producers will start exporting Liberica coffee to the European nation next month.

The Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) said this will be the first time that local coffee will penetrate the Swiss market, providing Filipino producers a chance to earn additional income from exports.

This will be also the first time that Kapeng Barako will be exported for commercial sale, PCBI President Pacita U. Juan said.

“We do not have the competitive advantage in arabica coffee against producers like Brazil, which is cheaper than ours. In Robusta, we will have to compete against Vietnam, which is a major producer,” Juan told the BusinessMirror.

“But in liberica, we almost have no competition at all. The closest competitor would be Malaysia but they are not producing nor exporting so much compared to us.”

The barako beans, which will be exported unroasted, will be carried by Blaser Café, one of the oldest coffee traders and well-established coffee roaster in Switzerland.

The Philippine Liberica coffee beans will join the BlaserCafé’s Terroir Line of signature coffee varieties from around the world, which includes Yemen’s Haraaz Sharqi, Kenya’s Kianjege, Colombia’s Maytama, among others.

Magnolia Misolas-Ashley, commercial counsellor of the Philippine Embassy in Switzerland, the commercial sale of “kapeng barako” in the European country will boost local farm-gate prices of Liberica and encourage farmers to produce more.

“Arabica markets have long been established and it would be an uphill climb to compete. The Robusta market is price-driven and is won by large scale producers like Vietnam. We think Liberica is our entry to these tight but interesting commodity markets,” Misolas-Ashley said in a statement.

At present, Juan said the farm-gate price of “kapeng barako” beans sells for P300 per kilogram to P400 per kg. But exporting the coffee variety to Switzerland will allow farmers to earn at least P400 per kg, she added.

Juan said the Philippines’s free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, which includes Switzerland, made the export of kapeng barako more competitive as it will enter the Swiss market at zero duty. Blaser Café bought five 60-kg bags or 300 kg in total of kapeng barako beans for its initial sale in December, she said.

Market discussions and work in penetrating the Switzerland market for “kapeng barako” started two years ago with PCBI inviting Philippine trade officials, especially attaches and counsellors abroad, for a cupping session. The goal of the session was to introduce to trade officers the best way to promote coffee, which is to export them raw, to foreign buyers and eventually form market linkages with domestic roasters.

Juan said Switzerland came into the picture in the middle of this year with Blaser Café buying three 60-kg bags of kapeng barako which had a soft launch at the Fernweh Festival last month. The Philippine liberica beans were roasted at medium temperature resulting in sweet, creamy, and juicy mouthfeel with rum, dried fruits, and brown sugar notes, according to PCBI. “Everyone loved it when they tasted it in Switzerland.”

Data from the International Coffee Organization showed that the Philippines exports coffee to the world market but only the Robusta variety.

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that the Philippines exported $1.633 million worth of coffee last year, which was 668.2 percent higher than the $212,617 recorded in 2019.

The Philippines is one of the leading producers of Liberica coffee in the world, accounting for at least half of global production, according to PCBI.

The country’s Liberica coffee production last year declined by 4.35 percent year-on-year to 462.53 metric tons, the lowest level since 2010, based on PSA data.

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