THE Philippine government-hosted South-east Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) said it is collaborating with state universities and colleges (SUCs) in building up struggling industries in the agriculture sector.
SEARCA Director Gil Saguiguit Jr. said the first of its partnerships in the endeavor is with Cavite State University (CvSU), a national leader on coffee research and development for almost 15 years, with which "we are set to renew formal ties."
"The collaboration with CvSU is the first step in SEARCA's envisaged cooperation program with state colleges and universities to bolster agri-based industries," Saguiguit said.
He noted the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) policy brief that states the country's dismal coffee production today is akin to that of small-scale producers like Guinea, Togo, and Madagascar.
This is true even if all four coffee varieties—Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta—are grown in the country, he added.
"Having put up 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," Saguiguit said.
In 2017, CvSU opened the country's first Coffee Museum in the middle of its sprawling nurseries in its campus and also led the 1st National Coffee Education Congress.
In April of 2017, CvSU president Hernando Robles and SEARCA scholarship alumnus Ruel Mojica, CvSU officer-in-charge vice president for research, extension, continuing education, and training services, visited SEARCA and came up with specific activities under a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between their institutions.
Saguiguit said 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.
He said 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.
Meanwhile, SEARCA said it will coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to formalize its proposal for a capacity building program to benefit both SUCs and the agriculture sector.
Saguiguit also mentioned that there is a similar SEARCA initiative to help the struggling calamansi industry in Mindoro Oriental through the Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology, and to develop jackfruit agribusiness ventures through the Visayas State University.