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How can the Philippines be a top coffee exporter again?

Clockwise from left: Chit Juan, Philippine Coffee  Board president, Hubert U. Young of UCC Café, Steve Benitez of Bo’s Coffee, Alfredo Yao of Zest-O juice, RC Cola and PCCI, Prof. Dr. Xu Kecheng of Fuda Hospital, Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor of  IPO Philippines, Adolfo L. Escalona

Coffee — the favorite drink of the civilized world.— Thomas Jefferson

Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical. — Jonathan Swift

What are the future prospects of Philippine coffee exports, and the situation of this commodity which is the world’s second most heavily traded next only to oil?

Lipa City of Batangas was once a famous coffee exporter in the late 19th century.  In 1880, the Philippines was the world’s fourth biggest exporter of coffee beans, and when the coffee rust hit Brazil, Africa, and Java, we became the only source of coffee beans worldwide. Lipa City then became very rich. This boom era of the Philippine coffee industry lasted until 1889, when coffee rust hit the Philippines.

Today, the Philippines produces 25,000 metric tons or 25 million kilos of coffee and ranks 110th in the world in terms of output, but we consume almost 100,000 metric tons a year. What can government and the private sector do to drastically improve production, processing and exports of Philippine coffee?

Which countries are the world’s biggest coffee exporters now? Undisputed No. 1 is Brazil, No. 2 is our ASEAN neighbor and also tea-producing Vietnam, No. 3 is a tossup between Colombia and Mexico, while No. 5 is our ASEAN neighbor Indonesia, where we also source the popular Kopiko instant coffee.

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The Philippine Coffee Board Inc. is working to promote Philippine coffee growing and exports, led by its chairman Nicholas “Nicky” A. Matti of Negros Occidental and with Pacita “Chit” U. Juan as its co-chairman and president. Chit Juan now owns Commune Café in Makati, which is managed by her niece Rosario Juan, and was also founder and former CEO of the Figaro coffee shop chain.

Where are the best coffee beans produced in the Philippines? Philippine STAR reader and the award-winning Salay Handmade Paper Industries founder Loreta Capistrano Rafisura of Salay municipality, Misamis Oriental, told me that Vie C. Reyes and Basil O. Reyes are the country’s first fair-trade producers of high-quality and high-end Coffee Alamid.

Nicky Matti and Chit Juan said the best Philippine coffee beans are produced in Benguet province, Matutum of South Cotabato, Kitanlad in Bukidnon, Mount Apo in Davao and Kanlaon in Negros isle.

When can the Philippines achieve coffee self-sufficiency? Ever an optimist, Chit Juan says by year 2020 is possible; Matti says he is a realist and thinks maybe in 2015.

What urgent reforms and support are needed to achieve this goal?

Success secrets of top coffee entrepreneurs, biggest coffee shop chains

What are the biggest coffee shop chains in the Philippines now? Some coffee traders told me No. 1 is Starbucks with over 200 branches, No. 2 is Bo’s Coffee from Cebu, owned by award-winning entrepreneur Steve Delantar Benitez with about 60 branches, No. 3 is Figaro chain with about 60 branches, No. 4 is Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, while possible No. 5 is UCC Cafe with 24 outlets and led by entrepreneur Hubert Uytengsu Young.

Among the success factors of Bo’s Coffee chain by Steve Benitez are his passion, his imagination, his focus on his main core business and learning to decisively say “no” to distractions, his being socially responsible, being open-minded, dynamic in thinking, and his humility.

Although the son of General Milling Corporation chairman George K. Young and also from the Uytengsu clan, Hubert is very entrepreneurial and has set up his own businesses. Friends say that he is successful because of his commitment to high quality, his attention to detail, his hard work, innovative spirit and being open to new ideas. 

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‘Juice King’ Fred Yao is PCCI President

The rags-to-riches 2005 Ernst & Young “Master Entrepreneur” awardee, Zest-O juice founder, Philippine RC Cola boss, Philippine Business Bank boss and Air Asia Zest chairman Alfredo “Fred” M. Yao is the undisputed “Juice King of the Philippines.” He has recently been elected as the incoming new president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

He is expected to revitalize this organization and be a vigorous business leader since he is a self-made man who, like John Gokongwei, Jr., lost his father at age 12. Fred Yao is one of numerous tycoons I have cited in this column before as among those that Forbes magazine missed in its list of the wealthiest.

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Transparency in Government

A business executive told this column that one of the most honest officials in the “Tuwid na Daan” administration of President Noynoy C. Aquino is Road Board executive director Adolfo L. Escalona because he has steadily cleaned up the processes and upheld transparency in transactions.

Escalona’s efficiency and clean-up reforms have saved the national government a lot of taxpayers’ money. Unlike many government officials who are lawyers, he is an engineer by training and has a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland.

The Road Board was once known as one of the most corrupt government agencies and allegedly a milking cow for politicos and their appointees.

Another reformist government official is Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) director general Ricardo R. Blancaflor, under whose leadership this agency’s offices have moved to a modern building in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City and its finances are well-managed with good governance.

Atty. Blancaflor said IPOPHIL’s priorities include giving support to small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) on patents, trademarks, copyrights and others nationwide, not only in Metro Manila.

Blancaflor urges our entrepreneurs and Philippine companies to build up global brands, especially with the coming ASEAN economic integration opening up a lot of economic challenges and opportunities.

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Congratulations to the Tzu Chi Buddhist non-governmental organization of Taiwan and the Filipino Chinese community, in cooperation with the Yuyitung family’s Chinese Commercial News, they have already raised a record P1.2 billion for typhoon Yolanda victims. Their relief and civic efforts continue. This good news was recently shared by the Chinese newspaper’s publisher Solomon Yuyitung.

Thanks to ABS-CBN host Karen Davila and STAR columnist Mons Romulo for introducing Prof. Dr. Xu Kecheng, the visionary founder of the Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou City, Guangdong, South China. Karen flew to Guangzhou to report on the medical breakthroughs of Fuda Cancer Hospital.

During his visit to Manila with Fuda Cancer Hospital president and associate professor Dr. Niu Lizhi, Dr. Xu said that among the success strategies of his hospital include its specialization in treating late-stage cancer patients and also screening people of possible cancer ailments, their world-class facilities and technologies, plus their highly-trained doctors and staff.

I also noticed that many of their cancer patients come from Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and also some from as far as Canada and Western Europe. It seems their strength is the Southeast Asian region, with one of Fuda’s vice-presidents coming from Malaysia as well as patients service personnel from ASEAN countries like the Philippines and Malaysia.

Dr. Xu advises that among the ways business people, professionals and others can prevent cancer include “living a stress-free, balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

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