Coffee producers in Bukidnon used to struggle reaching buyers. Now, the DOST-assisted enterprise Kape Maramag is their globally competitive ally for smooth-flowing income.
Kape Maramag is all about big earnings and high scores these days. Not only is it making Php 40,000 to 60,000 a month, it also won in the internationally judged Kape Pilipino (KP) Green Coffee Quality Competition last March, scoring a whopping 83.75 out of a hundred.
But before the numbers came rolling in, the coffee farmers in Maramag, Bukidnon were struggling for years in selling their produce. What sparked their inspiring progress was an initiative to organize, supported by agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Cream of the coffee crop
A Robusta coffee with dark chocolate and floral notes – that’s how international judges described Kape Maramag during the coffee quality contest held in Cavite. With this richness, it’s hardly any wonder that the product topped the Robusta category in the national competition.
The product’s score of 83.75 also raised Kape Maramag to Specialty Grade, pushing it to a high-demand global market.
Following their national breakthrough, the Kape Maramag team, led by its president Imelda Paulican-Mendoza, joined the Philippine delegation to the Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle, Washington just this April. It was a remarkable international debut for Philippine coffee, prompting enthusiasts to conclude that Bukidnon coffee is truly ready for the world.
All the while, the Kape Maramag enterprise in Maramag, Bukidnon has been consistently grinding up some lavish results.
“We used to have monthly sales of just Php 20,000,” recalls Mendoza. “These days, that goes up to Php 40,000 to Php 60,000 a month.”
A win-win enterprise
Kape Maramag may be a star in the Philippine coffee industry, but the true beauty of this enterprise is in its roots and its growth.
The community-based enterprise is managed by the Maramag Rural Improvement Club Federation (RICFed), a non-government organization composed of about 1,050 members. And these members are women – mothers and homemakers who organized themselves with the assistance of the local government of Maramag and the Department of Agriculture.
“Our organization believes that women should be functional economic partners and should play a vital role in community development,” Mendoza says.
In April 2012, with the help of government and non-government partners, the Maramag RICFed started running Kape Maramag as its flagship livelihood initiative. The enterprise was meant to revive the local coffee industry by adding value to the coffee produce of the area. Thus, Kape Maramag’s operations were mostly roasting, grinding, and brewing to produce good-quality coffee.
This created a unique opportunity for Maramag coffee farmers to finally have a steady buyer.
The enterprise started out with just a hundred kilograms of coffee beans and an endless supply of persistence. They tapped the farmers in their town, offering to purchase their produce at a better price on a per-kilo basis, in contrast to the bulk purchasing of existing buyers such as Nestle.
And the farmers favored Kape Maramag: they no longer have to worry about producing less during off-season farming months, because the Kape Maramag enterprise offers a premium price even for smaller volumes.
Today, the enterprise continuously roasts 30 to 50 kilograms of coffee every week, and their fast-selling coffee products never stay long on their shelves. At the same time, Maramag farmers who are also members of the federation have found a reliable buyer for their produce – and consequently, a reliable source of income.
Growing together with DOST-X
The win-win collaboration between Kape Maramag and local coffee farmers is paired with support from various government and non-government partners.
One important partner is DOST-Region X (DOST-X), through the Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) of Bukidnon. In late 2014, Kape Maramag saw the need to enhance their production and their products. Fortunately, they discovered that they could seek the help of DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), a program that assists micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through science and technology.
The very next year, PSTC Bukidnon implemented a SETUP project for Kape Maramag, providing the science and technology interventions that the enterprise needed: a coffee bag packaging machine, a moisture tester for coffee beans, shelf life analysis, and packaging and labeling design development and initial execution.
“Through SETUP, we were able to improve our packaging and even produce another coffee product which is instant coffee,” adds Mendoza.
Previously, Kape Maramag only offered freshly roasted coffee on-site at their kiosk near the town’s bus station. But now, with a growing variety of products and better packaging, they have reached farther and wider markets, including Manila, Cavite, Cotabato, and Surigao.
Mendoza asserts that the boost in their sales was because of DOST-SETUP.
“SETUP really helped a lot in achieving our goals as entrepreneurs,” she enthuses.
The growth of Kape Maramag has come to mean not only the popularity of a single enterprise, but more importantly, a better, more sustainable source income for the Maramag coffee farmers. It is proof that when citizens work proactively with each other and with appropriate partners, the resulting success will be rich and utterly satisfying. (Hyacinth J. Tagupa/DOST-X)
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