‘Agriculture is a science, hence the science-based approach is the way for us to compete’, Mr. Mark Balahay, Consultant for the DOST Caraga’s Consultancy for Agricultural Productivity Enhancement (CAPE) Program told DOST Caraga in an interview about his expectations on Brgy. Durian’s Coffee Plantations.

In 2016, the Department of Agriculture identified the lack of quality materials among the weak points of Caraga’s coffee industry. Therefore, the Department of Science and Technology’s Consultancy for Agricultural Productivity Enhancement (CAPE) program worked with various stakeholders in the government, civil society groups, and the private sector to address the increasing demand and limited supply of quality coffee beans in the region.

The DOST Caraga, through its Provincial Science and Technology Center in Agusan del Norte, identified Brgy. Durian, an upland community in the municipality of Las Nieves. Due to its established coffee farms in 2002, it qualifies to be one of the beneficiaries of the program. On April 8, 2021, Mr. Mark Balahay, CAPE Consultant and Coffee Quality Institute Q Grader at Philippine Coffee Council trained the 15 members of the Durian Farmers’ Association on Coffee Plantation Maintenance.

Mr. Balahay explained proven agricultural practices in planting density, fertilization, pest control, and rejuvenation cycle. He urged farmers to rejuvenate old coffee trees by regularly pruning or cutting secondary and tertiary branches to give more space for primary ones to grow. ‘If you want high-yielding trees, stick to rejuvenation’, he said.

FARM DEMO. The consultant, together with members of the Durian Farmers’ Association examines coffee trees and how they can improve the plantation

In contrast to the traditional farming belief that more branches, more fruits, rejuvenation, including regular pruning and de-suckering decrease competition for nutrients. As a result, coffee trees bear more fruits and increase in yield up to 30% per season.

Durian Farmers’ Association Representative of the Board of Directors, Mr. Gregorio Sindo, admitted that they’re challenged with adopting new technology. ‘Our members have used traditional farming methods since 2002. I think it’s time for us to adopt new ways if we want to improve productivity,’ he added.

Although new technology results in viable coffee beans, Mr. Mark Balahay pointed out that they don’t want to exclude traditional practices in the community. ‘We want to integrate new technology with existing effective traditional farm practices so we arrive at the best results’ he said.

Volume, quality, consistency

IN ACTION. Mr. Mark Balahay, Coffee consultant explaining why rejuvenation is important during the farm demo of the plantation maintenance training

‘The coffee market demands three things. Volume, how much can you produce? Quality, how much flavor profile can you offer? And consistency, how long can you maintain this volume and quality?’, Mr. Balahay highlighted during the farm demo.

He also explained that the flavor and aroma of beans reflect how farmers take care of the plantation. They give back their absorbed nutrients into organic acids transformed into flavor profiles.

Mr. Sindo, Durian Farmers’ Representative, said achieving this will be a joint effort between the farmers and DOST Caraga to produce quality beans. Despite challenges, he said farmers are willing to commit and adopt new technology for increased farm yield.

DOST – Agusan del Norte Provincial Science and Technology Director Ms. Meriam Bouquia also committed to providing more technology interventions and equipment to increase quality and production. ‘We hope that Brgy. Durian will be known as a source of quality coffee and contribute to the demand of the coffee industry in the region,’ she added.

DOST Agusan del Norte S&T Director Meriam Bouquia committed to provide more technology-based interventions to increase the coffee quality in the community