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Volume 3, Number 3              February 16 -22, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Coffee Talk:
Cavite Farmers Denounce Nestle and GATT-WTO
Clamor for P700 Per Bucket Hike in Coffee Prices

From Juan, the farmer, to Johnny, the Makati yuppie, drinking coffee to start the day is an inviolable ritual. But in last week’s forum, “Isang Umagang Walang Kape,” in Cavite, coffee farmers foresaw a morning without coffee – if the crisis in Philippine coffee production is not solved.

By Dennis Espada

AMADEO, Cavite---Coffee is very much a simple yet organic part of the breakfast table. As coffee lovers thrive anywhere in the world, and with local and franchised coffee shops mushrooming in urban centers such as Starbucks and Figaro, coffee drinking has ceased to be a simple way of life but has even turned into a status symbol.

The popular drink comes from an evergreen tree, which was first discovered in Ethiopia, where its red, cherrie-like berries (generally containing 2 seeds per berry) was used for wine and food before A.D. 1000. Its beans are first grounded and roasted and made into a drink during the 15th century in the Arabian peninsula. Coffee later spread throughout Europe since the 17th century.

The highest quality coffees are varieties of Arabian (coffee arabica), Liberian (coffee liberica) and Congolese (coffee robusta).

Every year, the world consumes about 100 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee. This means that coffee drinkers gulp down up to 400 billion cups of coffee yearly (45 million cups per hour).

Behind every cup of coffee however lies a very tedious job of farming, harvesting, post-harvesting processing, farm-to-market transporting, grading, cleaning, blending, roasting, grinding for roast, and ground coffee, processing into instant coffee, packing and distribution to wholesalers and retailers, and then finally to your breakfast table, coffee shop, or office conference room.

All over the world, there are 125 million people who are employed by this industry. In the Philippines, at least 300,000 Filipinos owe their incomes to this industry where 164,139 hectares of agricultural lands are planted with coffee.

Cavite, south of Manila, contributes 30% of the Philippine coffee production, which is why some sectors are proposing to make the province as the "coffee capital of the Philippines" with Amadeo as its core.

Weighing the perils

During the forum dubbed "Isang Umagang Walang Kape" (a morning without coffee) held last Feb. 8 at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in this town and sponsored by the church-based peasant advocates groups such as Simahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Simbaka) and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Southern Luzon (RMP-SL), militant farmer’s groups blasted the monopoly control of multinational giant Nestle and the worsening effects of the General Agreement on Tarrif and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) the country’s coffee industry.

According to a recent study by the peasant group Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka), Nestle (which processes Nescafe products) purchases 90-95% of the total coffee production in the country which is about 40,000 tons annually. Thus, it is able to dictate prices at the cheapest rate. Other corporations such as General Milling (Kafe de Oro), Universal Robina Corporation (Great Taste and Blend 45) and Commonwealth Food Inc. (Café Puro) share all what’s left in the production.

Past regimes, including the liberalization and deregulation policies under the GATT-WTO, have slowly made Nestle’s monopoly appear legal and legitimate. No wonder many of the world’s people are dismayed with Nestle’s products. Since the early part of the 1990s, massive campaigns led by workers to boycott Nestle products (including Nescafe) surged all over the world.

Through the 1994 GATT-WTO, the Philippine coffee industry is being appropriated by capitalist countries, to the detriment of poor farmers. The Philippines was obliged to buy coffee products at a minimum access volume (MAV) without considering the status of annual local production.

In 1999, MAV in Cavite reached 36,000 metric tons (costing US$33 million), to make supposedly for the 20,000 metric tons shortage in national production. Reports show that more than a half of the imports have been monopolized by Nestle on the basis of "lack of production."

For the first time since 1880, when the Philippines was the fourth biggest exporter of coffee to the world, the country has now become a net importer.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairman Rafael Mariano says, "mas pinatindi pa ng GATT-WTO ‘yung problema, lalo na pagdating sa lokal na presyo ng kape. Nandyan din ‘yung problema ng kawalan ng lupang isasaka, mataas na gastos sa produksyon, napakataas na interes sa pautang o usura, at ‘yung napakababang presyo ng ating produkto" (Under the GATT-WTO, the problem has worsened particularly local coffee price. Added to this are the lack of farmland for coffee production, high production costs and high interest rates on loans or usury).

The system of liberalization in agriculture as dictated by GATT-WTO agreements has paved the way for the flooding of cheap imported coffee coming from Vietnam and Indonesia. As a result, prices of locally-produced coffee dropped tremendously. Currently, a bucket full of coffee beans costs P200.

Raise coffee prices

To reverse this downtrend, Renato Alvarez, chairman of Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) plans to ask the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to raise coffee prices to P700 per bucket.

"Our call is to have a fixed price of coffee beans to be determined by the government. Also, they should have a support price or subsidy to help establish a central market where raw coffee products all go," Alvarez said.

He explained that with P200 per bucket prices, farmers earn only P73 daily, equivalent to P2,200 monthly. Production costs eat up most of their expenses. With a P700 per bucket price, farmers can earn P462 per day or P13,867 per month, enough to meet the costs of decent living.

Amadeo town councilor Rene Tongson, who leads the local government’s coffee revival program, meanwhile, called an increase in local coffee production to help save the industry from further deterioration. He said that the country needs a consumption of 55,000 metric tons (MT) annually. At present, the country produces some 20,000 MT, only forcing the country to import.

"The more we produce, the better," Tiongson said.

But, Mariano said, "Dapat ang una-unang isinasaisip ng gobyerno ay kung paano kukuhanin ito sa domestic production. Last resort na lang ‘yung mag-iimport tayo. Kailangang palakasin natin ang lokal na produksyon" (Government should think first how to source what is lacking through local production. Importation should be the last resort. Let us first strengthen our local coffee production).

According to data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), total production in 1989 reached 83,000 MT where local domestic consumption was only 33,000 MT with a surplus of 50,000 MT. "Kung naabot natin noong 1989, bakit hindi natin ito makakaya ngayon?…Malinaw sa datos, kaya anting likhain ‘yung pangangailangan natin sa domestic consumption, lalo na kapag naglaan ng pondo sa research and development para maitaas ang produksyon" (If we were able to reach this production in 1989, we could do it today. The data clearly shows we can produce hat we consume locally, especially if research and development is backed by funding in order to increase production).

Sister Teresita Gabriela of the Tagaytay Religious Association, on the other hand, stressed the need to cut down production costs by using organic farming methods and reduce the use of chemical-based fertilizers.

Free and healthy discussion of issues and concerns toward the largest number, Alvarez observed, will make people work together.

"If we would bind ourselves together to assert our demands, we might get what we want," Sr. Gabriela said.

Assessing the promise

A government spin-off to the crisis facing the coffee industry is the creation of a Presidential Task Force on Coffee Production in order to revive coffee production early last year. The national government has released P1.4 billion as part of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund allotted for the local coffee industry. The fund is supposed to be used for the construction of farm-to-market roads and other agricultural facilities, the purchase of post-harvest facilities, credit funds and a program for research and development.

But all these efforts remain to be seen concretely in the context of the daily struggle of peasants and farm workers where a majority of them are still dreaming to own the land that they till.

For the Cavite farmers, there's no better thing to do than to reach the largest number of people in the province and all over the country and to make them understand their plight, through forums and media conferences.

If sipping coffee can awaken one’s consciousness from sleepiness, then why don’t we let the peasants, in their militancy, wake the rest of the people as well? Bulatlat.com


Particular Expenses


Sub Total

Fertilizers (20 sacks)



Urea (10 sacks)



Ammosul (10 sacks)


P 6,800

Linis/Pruning (20 person/3 times)


P 7,800

Puti (500 buckets fresh coffee)

P  30/bucket


Total                                                                                    P29,600


Total Income


Cost of Production


Net Income


P  2,200/month

P       73/day


Total Income


Cost of Production

P  29,600

Net Income


P  13,867/month

P       462/day

Source: "Praymer sa Krisis sa Industriya ng Kape" published by the Kalipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Southern Luzon (RMP-SL) and the Simbahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Simbaka), 2002

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