Trouble brewing in Cavite town’s local coffee industry

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2020 03:33 AM | Updated as of Jan 26 2020 05:47 PM

The second most active volcano in the country, Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, 2020, displacing thousands of people in Calabarzon region and, according to Department of Agriculture-Calabrzon and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, leading to an estimated P3.06 billion in agricultural damage.

This compounds already existing problems in the farming sector of Amadeo town, Cavite, which, in addition to the latest eruption, has had to deal with the effects of climate change, dwindling farmland, and a general disinterest in farming.

As Taal Volcano’s threat continues to loom, Amadeo residents carry on with their lives as, in the back of their minds, grave concern about their future persists.

For Evangeline Bedua, it’s change she’s reluctant to accept.

“Kape ang pangunahing produkto ng Amadeo, pero parang napapalitan na ng pinya,” the 37-year-old farmer says.

“Napapalitan gawa ng tuwing tag-ulan, di makapagpatuyo ng kape. Kapag tag-init naman hindi makapamunga, at natutuyo ang bulaklak.” 

Bedua shares her observations, as she takes a break from harvesting coffee fruits in a farm owned by a retired Navy officer.

She mixes cream powder with instant coffee in a small container, as she sits on empty sacks sewn together and refurbished as a mat that serves to catch coffee fruits. 

“Pinaghahalo ko kasi kapag di ko hinalo ang Coffee Mate ay mauunang mauubos ang kape,” she says.

Sophia Bedua starts harvesting early in the morning to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Eva and her sister-in-law, Sophia Bedua, 61, share their experiences as coffee farmers.

“Matagal na proseso ang pangangape. Aanihin, patutuyuin ng isang linggo, depende pa sa panahon kung uulan. Pagkatuyo, dadalhin sa amo ng balde balde. Du’n pa lang mababayaran,” Eva says.

Sophia earns P50 for every 20-liter tin can full of coffee fruits gathered from the farm. She only gets paid after that long process of waiting, harvesting, and drying of coffee fruits is done.

“’Yung kikitain ko ay ipambabayad ko du’n sa inutang ko na bigas. P60 ang isang kilo. Katulad ngayon, buwan ng Enero na ang pag-ani. Tinamaan pa ng abo, ay pa’no na kami?” Sophia says.

Coffee fruits are harvested from trees that take roughly a whole year to flower, and another few months for it to bear fruit. It all depends on the weather. Rainy days make it difficult to dry coffee beans, which causes molds to grow.

After Taal erupted, livelihood from surrounding provinces was severely affected. Banana, papaya, and guyabano are among the few crops that are rendered useless after an ash fall destroyed plantations. The agriculture department estimates losses at about P3.06 billion.

Growing pineapple 

Mario Angcao, 70, sprays his plants with water to wash off the ash in his farm in Amadeo town on January 22, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Mario Angcao, 70, grabs his sprayer and walks down the muddy road leading toward his pineapple farm. 

“Matibay naman ang balat ng pinya. Mahuhugasan pa ito, at mahihinog pa. Di tulad ng saging at papaya, wala na talaga,” Angcao says.

Mang Mario shares the same sentiment as Aling Eva. 

“Parang namamaalam na ang kape dito sa aming bayan,” Mario says.

Angcao, also a coffee farmer, wonders what the future holds.

“Ang puno ng kape, ’pag tumanda na, hindi na mamumunga. ’Pag magtanim ka naman ng bago, mamumulaklak pero di nagiging bunga. Dulot ’yan ng climate change. Hindi na rin kasi kasing taba noon ang lupa ngayon,” Angcao says.

He explains that extreme weather changes are more of the problem, rather than the volcano erupting and the consequent ash fall. Aside from this, he cites that the trend of selling land is hurting the farming industry.

“ ’Yung mga nakapag-aral na anak dito sa amin, binebenta na ang lupa dahil hindi naman nila alam pa’no magbukid. ’Yung iba pinagpapagawan ng mga bahay, numinipis ang lupa. Kami na lang matatanda dito ang naiiwan mag-bukid,” Angcao says.

The challenges caused by extreme weather occurrences have affected crop production severely, causing the youth to turn their back on farming. 

“Gaya ng anak ko. Nang makatapos ng pag-aaral ay kumuha na ng condo. Sa Maynila na tumira. Wala nang susunod na henerasyon ng magbubukid,” Angcao says.

‘Bleak future for farming’

Joel “Dong” Bedua, 43, husband of Eva Bedua shares other farmers’ feedback. Dong, who was born and raised in Amadeo, started farming in his teenage years. 

“Noon, di ka tumitigil kakapanguha ng kape. Nakakatatlong panguha kami noon, sa isang pangunguha, 10 sako ng kape sa isang araw. Ngayon, dalawang panguha na lang. Mas maganda ang panahon noon, mas marami ang bunga,” Dong says.

Farmers sell their harvest to the Cafe Amadeo Development Cooperative for a P40 a kilo. Today, they are only able to harvest two sacks equivalent to 25 kilos, compared to 200 kilos’ worth of produce a few years back. 

Local farmers moonlight as construction workers in Amadeo town, on January 23, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Dong laments the growing trend of selling land in his hometown. Properties are often sold to outsiders, who eventually build their houses. The land intended for farming is slowly shrinking due to land conversion and modernization.

“Binebenta ang mga lupa nila gawa ng walang trabaho ang mga anak. Kaya kalimitan, mga dayo na ang nagtatayo ng mga bahay,” Dong says.

What’s next for Amadeo coffee?

Workers heat seal their products inside the Cafe Amadeo. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Meanwhile, a coffee shop in Amadeo fears a drop in sales as coffee bean supply dramatically decreased.

“Nagre-ready na ang management na baka bumaba ang supply this coming year because of the ash fall. Ngayon may stocks pa, pero di namin alam kung hanggang kailan.” says Arnold Bay, secretary of the Cafe Amadeo Development Cooperative. 

The cooperative, a private entity, buys coffee beans from Amadeo farmers to help with their livelihood by cutting transportation costs often incurred when selling their produce outside town.

The group also provides seeds to farmers in times of crisis.

Calamities such as typhoons affect business. The cooperative stops receiving produce such as fresh milk particularly when there’s power outage. 

After chatting, Sophia asks whether she’ll see herself on TV. Learning that the story will only be available online, she knows there’s no way for her to see it as they don’t have access to mobile phones. They would rather spend their measly income to provide food on the table and medicine for her children than buy a phone.

These coffee farmers, who drink instant coffee, won’t experience the luxuries of this modern world, at least until their farms, and the world’s climate, become a little kinder to them.

Fearing spoilage because of the ash fall, farmers harvest both ripe and unripe coffee fruits. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Eva Bedua sorts out leaves and twigs from the coffee fruit farmers harvested. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Eva Bedua mixes instant coffee, as she and other farmers take a break from harvesting. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Eva Bedua sorts out leaves and twigs, as Sophia Bedua picks fruits from a coffee plant. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Sophia Bedua climbs a coffee plant to harvest its fruits. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fearing spoilage because of the ash fall, Sophia Bedua is forced to harvest coffee fruits, whether ripe or not. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Sophia Bedua shows a coffee bean. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Ripe and unripe coffee fruits are stored inside a sack for transporting. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Joel “Dong” Bedua loads a sack of harvested coffee into a tricycle. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Mario Angcao walks down the trail towards his pineapple farm. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Mario Angcao sprays his plants with water to wash off the ash. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Mario Angcao sprays a pineapple plant with water to wash off the ash in his farm in Amadeo town, Cavite, on January 22, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Joel “Dong” Bedua shows how a naturally ripe, harvested pineapple looks like. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Joel “Dong” Bedua inspects the coffee fruits during the drying process. Drying coffee fruits usually takes a week, before it is sold to the Cafe Amadeo Development Cooperative. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers load roasted coffee beans into a grinder at Cafe Amadeo. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A worker inspects ground coffee inside Cafe Amadeo. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers pack coffee products inside Cafe Amadeo. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Cafe Amadeo in Cavite sells products by members of the Cafe Amadeo Development Cooperative. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News