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Coffee tie-up to help tribal farmers

Jesuit school and Canadian chain aim to boost growers' income

Pierre Yves Cote, president of Rocky Mountain Cafe, during a forum at Cafe Ateneo Pierre Yves Cote, president of Rocky Mountain Cafe, during a forum at Cafe Ateneo
  • Mach Alberto Fabe, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Philippines
  • February 16, 2011
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A Canadian firm has joined forces with the Jesuit-run Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan to revitalize the Philippines coffee industry and help indigenous Filipino people.

Pierre Yves Cote, president of Rocky Mountain Café (RMC), which buys coffee from indigenous Filipino growers from various tribes, recently signed a deal with outgoing Xavier University president Father Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, for the development and promotion of Arabica coffee in Mindanao.

“Rocky Mountain Café wants to revolutionize the coffee industry in the Philippines,” Cote said at the launch of Café Ateneo.

Café Ateneo is part of the university’s program to provide business laboratories for students on business courses.

The café serves specialty coffee provided by RMC. The university hopes to make Café Ateneo not just a snack bar but also a center of intellectual discourse.

Xavier University vice president Hilly Roa-Quiaoit said the partnership with RMC will also provide some financial security for indigenous farmers.

“RMC and [Xavier University] can do this by helping the farmers in Bukidnon in terms of coffee production,” she said.

RMC is now establishing a 50-hectare Arabica coffee plantation that straddles the towns of Miarayon, Talakag and Bukidnon. The company aims to establish 10 plantations in 10 provinces in the Philippines.

“The coffee industry in the Philippines declined because the industry focused on making instant coffee and planting Robusta coffee, which is low grade coffee,” Cote said.

Cote, a French-Canadian married to a Filipina, has been calling the Philippines home for the last 20 years.

“If Filipino coffee farmers grow Arabica, they will have three times more money than they’re earning from Robusta,” he said.

RMC will go into partnership with Higaonon and Talaandig tribal farmers for its coffee plantation in Bukidnon.

“The indigenous peoples of the Philippines give soul and character to our coffee,” Cote said.

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