Our second meeting introduced us to Nicholas, head of the Philippine Coffee Board. He represents the old-school business model. The government realized production was dropping, they needed a solution so they contacted the main Manila business group (in Makati, the central business district) and through those cultivated relationships came up with the board. Using government funding, the board distributed fertilizer out to the farmers and used those relationships to gather supply that they turned over to roasters to produce their own specialty coffees. They were successful in stopping and partially reversing the production drop, and they further want to develop the capability to produce coffee. However, their optimal endstate is not having small farmers in business for themselves as it is to create scale that could support a single operation to produce coffee for Manila and export.
So what do these two different perspectives show--Manila is still central to any plans for coffee in the Philippines even though none is grown here because this is where the money is. Relationships matter--a theme we've heard throughout the value chain, and when combined with money, there is a real power dimension that cannot be overlooked. Week 1+ is done, and tomorrow we go into CRS to get down to work.