The Philippines is included the few countries that produce the four varieties of commercially viable coffee namely Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, and Excelsa. The first two species account for more than 90% of the total coffee production in our country. Thanks to the kind of climate and soil conditions that we have, coffee growing in the Philippines, from the lowland to mountainous regions, became suitable. To give you a brief background, the first coffee tree was planted and introduced in Barangay Pinagtung-ulan in the city of Lipa in Batangas by the Spanish Franciscan monk way back in 1740. And later on, it reached the other parts of the province such as Lemery, Ibaan, San Jose, Taal, and Tanauan. In the 1860s, Batangas was able to export coffee to San Francisco followed by the opening of the Suez Canal. This marks the start of exporting coffee in Europe. The province of Cavite also started growing their first coffee seedlings in Amadeo. The Philippines then became the fourth largest coffee exporter in the world in 1880. The glory days of the coffee industry in our country lasted until 1889. This is the year when coffee rust together with the insect infestation hit the Philippines. The main reason why other farmers had shifted on planting crops instead of growing coffee trees. In the 1950s, our government in conjunction with the Americans were able to offer a more resistant variety of coffee. It was followed by the introduction of instant coffee which makes the demand for coffee beans higher. Since the majority shifted to growing coffee trees again, it resulted in a surplus of beans around the world. And coffee importation was banned to protect local producers. Today, our country produces around 30,000 metric tons of coffee per year. Sultan Kudarat is the leading producer of Robusta and even Arabica. On the other hand, Sulu is the top producer of Excelsa and Liberica coffees. As per the Philippines Statistical Authority, other major producers include the provinces of Batangas, Bukidnon, Cavite, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Iloilo, Kalinga, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, and Quezon.
- Arabica has been considered the best quality of coffee due to its excellent flavor and aroma. This bean is an early bearer. After two years of transplanting, it then produces berries. Arabica’s berries are oblong ellipsoid and initially green in color and later on, turn red or yellow, the indication when it is already ripe. However, this variety of coffee is susceptible to coffee rust.
- Liberica or locally known as kapeng barako is known for its very strong taste and color. It is not an early bearer since it produces berries after four to five years from transplanting. It produces the biggest berry among the other varieties and round or in a small cluster with thick and even firm pulp. What’s good about this coffee is that it is drought tolerant.
- Excelsa is being compared to Liberica due to their similarity of producing berries after four to five years from transplanting. Berries being produced are a little compressed having a flat form. They are usually borne in a heavy cluster and much bigger than Arabica but smaller as being compared to Liberica.
- Robusta can produce berries four years after transplanting. You will notice its umbrella-shaped growth as being compared to how other coffee varieties grow. The berries are smaller than Arabica and are closely clustered. It is blood red when ripe and you will see thin pulp and even parchment.
To grow coffee, it requires a deep and loamy soil which has a good water-holding capacity allowing proper circulation of air as well as right moisture needed. Farmers avoid those heavy clay soil because too much water can strongly affect their growth. It also needs to be planted in an environment that has a free air movement. Relative humidity of 70 to 85 percent and a temperature of 13 to 26 degrees Celsius is being monitored and followed which are favorable for the coffee species to grow. Arabica can be planted 900 up to 1,800 meters above sea level while the remaining three species namely Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa can be planted up to 900 meters above sea level.
Ways to control pest and other diseases
Various pests may attack coffee berries whenever they attained the size like mung-beans and one of them is the coffee berry borer. You will notice that once berries are being attacked, the green berries then became yellow-orange and fall prematurely. To control the widespread of this kind of pest, collect and destroy those infected berries. You can also spray with chemicals recommended for those berries.
Another pest that may attack coffee is leaf folder. It sometimes attacks fruits and flowers. Its larvae feed on leaves and lay eggs on the leaves also. Making the tree die as well. Thus, you won’t be able to harvest what you’ve worked hard for.
The most destructive among them is the coffee rust. As being said, Arabica is the most susceptible to this kind of disease. You will notice small, yellowish translucent spots on the leaves. It is becoming larger and the powdery yellow to orange spores are being distinctive. Then small spots form irregular brown spots making the affected leaves drop and eventually the tree may die. You can use resistant strains to prevent coffee rust. Those were just glimpses of what’s being encountered of the commercially viable varieties of coffee growing in the Philippines.
To give you an idea, farmers only harvest those hard-ripe and soft-ripe berries. The indication for Arabica and Robusta’s berries are that it becomes red or yellow when ripe. For Liberica and Excelsa, berries turn red. It is recommended to use dry and clean sacks and avoid using plastic bags as containers of those harvested berries.