Business with a mission
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
It’s not only the distributor who trusts Grace but also the DOST, DTI and other government agencies which she has been working with. She was able to obtain a loan of P850,000.00 under the Small Enterprises Upgrading Program (SET-UP) of the DOST in 2009. She used the money to buy a second roaster because with just one roaster, she could not cope with bulk orders with limited time to deliver.
Last year, she also obtained another SET-UP loan in the amount of P1.9M which she used to upgrade her packaging material to foil. She explained that the aluminium foil boxes which are made in Thailand solves the problem of bulkiness experienced with locally produced packaging material. Also, the design is pre-printed unlike in the old technology where the design is pasted on the generic packaging material.
The business has generated employment. Grace says she has 10 employees two of whom work full-time while the eight divide their time between the coffee production and their work in the Golden Berries Hotel and Convention Center in barangay San Juan. She established the hotel in 2009. There is no hassle for them because packaging is done in a room of the innermost building of the hotel. Grace informs that she is compliant with government regulations on salaries and benefits for her employees. She gives them incentives based on sales volume.
Grace said that Ramil Bumusao who operates the roasting machine and also heads the packaging has has been with the Kalinga Blend since the start. Liezel Agagon does the brunt of the packaging of the roasted coffee.
Grace was a recipient of the National Productivity Award of the Department of Labor and Employment in 2011. The award is for employers who comply with the general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards.
Grace wants to believe the business is helping coffee farmers not only in the slightly higher prices she gives them but in reminding them to improve the quality of their produce. She says that she has always bought her raw material at least P5 per kilo above the prevailing prices in the market. She also insists on Nestle-quality beans and she hopes she could help convince the famers who do business with her to adopt the best practices in processing of the green beans for the market.
“The farmers should follow the proper process starting from the harvest, to the drying, milling and cleaning. What is happening now is that after harvest, they pour the berries on the pavement to dry and leave it there rain or shine until it is dry. The practice affects the quality of the beans because they have been soaked in the rain resulting to moldy beans. If ever they leave the beans in the open, they should place them on an elevated and perforated surface to prevent soaking,” Grace said.
She also said that from the mill, the farmers should not sell their beans right away but instead clean them to enhance their price. The have to remove foreign bodies from the coffee, the broken beans and unshelled beans insect-beaten and the immature beans. According to him, with the usual condition of beans sold by farmers, 3-5 percent would go to waste. .
Grace also said that farmers should pick only the ripe beans which means they cannot harvest the riped beans with the green beans. Neither should they dry the beans on the kiln because beans which undergo partial roasting become stinky and musty.
“I could understand. They might need money immediately and could not wait to dry the coffee in the sun so they use fire but they should understand that the shortcut process affects the quality of the beans,” Grace said.
Grace says that the purpose of sorting is to remove the insect-beaten and the immature beans and also to see to it that the beans with moisture content higher than 12 will be dried.
She informs that she has never thought of establishing her own coffee plantation and is content buying from local farmers. She qualifies though that while she buys all her Robusta coffee locally, she has to source her Arabica beans from Sagada, Mt. Province or Benguet since the variety is not commonly grown in Kalinga.
“I do not see my not having my own coffee plantation as a drawback anyway the coffee produce in Kalinga is enough. But more importantly, I do not compete with farmers. I am a processor and not a coffee producer,” Grace said.
The Kalinga Blend ground coffee is a combination of the Robusta and Arabica coffees.
Grace did not give any details but assured that the venture is earning.
“The business is small but it brings me happiness and fulfilment. Anybody can establish a hotel but the coffee business is something else because it makes use of locally produced materials,” Grace said.
Asked if she has accomplished the mission she has set when she entered the coffee processing business 10 years ago, Grace says: “In a way. Outsiders who see the Kalinga Blend acknowledge we have processed coffee and usually asks what else Kalinga offers. This is the common reaction of people who first hear of our white water rafting activity and of Wang-od, our renowned tattoo artist.”**