The first of its partnerships in this endeavor is with Cavite State University (CvSU), a national leader on coffee research and development for almost 15 years and with which SEARCA is set to renew formal ties.
While all four coffee varieties—Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta—are grown in the country, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) says in its policy brief that the country's dismal coffee production today is akin to that of small-scale producers like Guinea, Togo, and Madagascar.
Through its National Coffee Research, Development and Extension Center (NCRDEC), CvSU has been at the forefront of efforts to put the Philippines back on the "coffee belt" comprising the world's coffee-producing giants. Last year, CvSU opened the country's first Coffee Museum in the middle of its sprawling nurseries on campus and led the 1st National Coffee Education Congress.
CvSU President Dr. Hernando D. Robles and SEARCA scholarship alumnus Dr. Ruel Mojica, CvSU OIC-Vice President for Research, Extension, Continuing Education and Training Services, visited SEARCA on 2 April 2017 to meet with SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. and discuss the specific activities under the new memorandum of understanding between their institutions.
The joint initiatives include capacity building assistance to CvSu through regular scholarship slots for faculty development and focused short-term trainings and executive courses to address manpower and expertise needs in consonance with CvSU's Strategic Plan. SEARCA has also proposed a benchmarking study on the coffee industry in other countries and policy research to jumpstart and give impetus to coffee enterprises in the Philippines.
SEARCA also gave its commitment to support the 1st ASEAN Coffee Education Congress that CvSU will convene in October 2018.
Dr. Saguiguit said the collaboration with CvSU is the first step in SEARCA's envisaged cooperation program with SUCs to bolster agri-based industries. He added that SEARCA plans to meet with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to formalize its proposal for a capacity building program to benefit both SUCs and the agriculture sector. He mentioned that there is a similar SEARCAinitiative to help the struggling calamansi industry in Mindoro Oriental through the Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT) and to develop jackfruit agribusiness ventures through the Visayas State University (VSU). (Leah Lyn D. Domingo)