As a follow-through activity to the signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a collaborative undertaking in agriculture in 2009 between the Philippine's Department of Agriculture (DA) and Brazil, representatives from the DA-High Value Commercial Crops Program, Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Philippine Coffee Board Inc., and Cavite State University undertook a Coffee Study Tour for Germplasm Exchange in Brazil.
The MOU covers the exchange of genetic materials for high value crops like coffee and exchange visits of coffee experts/ scientists of the two countries to observe the other's coffee production industry.
Coordinated by the Office of DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Ms. Bernadette Romulo Puyat, in coordination with the Embassy of Brazil, the study tour included visits to the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas (IAC) in Sao Paolo, Brazil, different coffee farms owned by big companies (government-owned and private sector), cooperatives and farmers involved in coffee production, as well as consultation meetings and presentations of the respective Coffee R & D programs of individual institutions. This activity was conducted to explore possible areas of future collaboration with IAC in the areas of coffee production and processing, and the exchange of genetic materials for coffee.
"The DA, through the High Value Commercial Crops Program, has identified coffee as one of its priority program crops. Since the Department would like to revive the country's coffee industry, and develop and enhance the country's coffee production, the DA is taking advantage of international agreements to acquire new genetic materials of other countries like Brazil in order to develop a broader genetic-base for the Philippines' coffee farms that will result to a stable and high yielding coffee industry," Digna Sandoval, Technology Commercialization Unit (TCU) Coordinator for Crops of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), said.
The DA, through the HVCC Program, is now undertaking interventions on coffee which include the provision of planting materials and organic fertilizers, conduct of trainings, and distribution of IEC materials. Together with the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., a program was launched, titled "Pilipinas, Gising at Magkape Program", that seeks to rehabilitate coffee farms and encourage their expansion in the country.
The DA has also tied-up with Nestle Philippines for the latter to provide trainings on the production of planting materials and on quality processing. In addition, the corporation has worked with DA on mass production of quality coffee seedlings through somatic embryogenesis.
Brazil has made significant advances in coffee production and has the most complex and modern infrastructure from production to marketing worldwide. Some coffee companies and coffee farms in Brazil have gained awards and distinctions in the world market and recognition as among the best coffee production companies and consideration as world class coffee solution providers.
Brazil's vast collection of coffee genetic materials has a wide range of Arabica species and a representative range of Robusta. They are now looking into future sustainability and increasing the competitiveness of the Brazilian coffee industry.
Coffee Center Research Program of the IAC Center
Brazil's IAC center was created to provide agronomic support to the Brazilian coffee sector, generate and transfer scientific knowledge to agriculture, aims to optimize plant production systems and foster sustainable socio-economic development.
The germplasm bank has a representative range of Robusta coffee and a wide range of Arabica species. It also maintains in the field 15 of the approximately 100 species of Coffea genus, constituting a natural reserve of genes resistant to pests and diseases. The reserves generated 62 cultivars of Arabica coffee duly registered in the National Cultivar Protection Service and which are being adapted to a wide range of growing conditions in Brazil.
The IAC Center is very much willing to provide the Philippines with the coffee cultivars suited to Philippine conditions as long as the Philippine Delegation will take charge of the requirements for importation of seeds/planting materials and the application of their recommended production technology.
"For R&D, one important aspect to look at was genetic improvement to generate cultivars resistant to pests and diseases (leaf miner and nematodes) and cultivars with naturally low levels of caffeine," Ms. Sandoval said. Another important product of improvement on C. canephora generated was the Apoata cultivar suitable for use as a rootstock which is resistant to nematodes and found to be compatible with all Arabica coffee cultivars. The development of hybrids of Arabica and Robusta coffee, called "Arabustas", are characterized by good yields, strength, and resistance to coffee leaf rust and cup quality superior to that of the Robustas and may constitute an option for cultivation in warmer regions.
The Center supports a program on small-scale growers to promote their social and economic inclusion and identify the technological demands in the State of Sao Paolo. The program also is into the establishment of an inter-regional input-output model relating the coffee production and industrialization sectors.
The study group also visited private coffee companies and coffee farms. These included the Monte Alegre Farm, Ipanema Coffees, Fazenda Santa (Areado, Minas Gerais), and COCAPEC (Franca, Sao Paolo).
The different coffee farms visited were all mechanized and well-equipped from production to post harvest up to marketing. The companies market their coffee product locally and internationally.