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Seven R Coffee: A young entrepreneur's journey to empower coffee farmers

Rey John Basco is convinced that coffee farming can be a profitable venture. Drawing inspiration from his father's work in the field, Basco believes that coffee has the potential to not only improve their financial situation but also that of other farmers in the region.

Basco hails from the town of Senator Ninoy Aquino, commonly known as "Kulaman," in the province of Sultan Kudarat. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority for 2021 says that Sultan Kudarat province is the top coffee producer in the Philippines, accounting for 35% of the country's total coffee production. As a result, it attracts investors, particularly coffee companies that source the majority of their coffee from Basco's town and its neighboring municipalities.

"In the early 2000s, our family used to trade for a large company. However, before becoming an independent coffee producer, we realized that such an arrangement was not sustainable in the long run," Basco recalled.

In pursuit of greater opportunities, the Basco family established their brand, Seven R Coffee, in 2012, using the first initials of the siblings’ first names and their mother. They began by selling commercially graded coffee, which they roasted using a traditional method with a stainless drum. By 2015, they had completed all the necessary documentation to fully operate as a business.

Although the young Basco grew up around coffee, he pursued a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems at Sultan Kudarat State University. He made the decision to start his own coffee business in 2018 while still a student. He had no land or farm when he first started. His father, though, initially planted 1,000 coffee hills before he finally started buying them from other growers.

His interest in coffee grew even stronger when various interventions were introduced, including technical support from the Department of Trade and Industry and the ACDI/VOCA-PhilCAFE project. These interventions, which underscore the importance of producing high-quality Robusta coffee, aided their coffee farming and production efforts. 

Basco is thankful for all the interventions he received both from the government and non-governmental organizations, saying he was fortunate to receive various coffee training opportunities, including earning the Q Processing Professional certification. The course was facilitated by the Coffee Quality Institute in collaboration with the ACDI/VOCA-PhilCAFE Project.

The certification, which is designed for individuals who work regularly with the post-harvest processing of coffee, has made him one of only three Q Processing Professionals in Region 12. 

Armed with his newfound knowledge of coffee, Basco is eager to share it with his fellow coffee farmers and producers. He acknowledges, however, that he has had trouble sharing his knowledge, particularly with elderly farmers who are firmly committed to conventional farming methods.

"Many of them won’t believe me because I’m still young and have not proven anything yet in the local coffee industry. Despite this, I remain resolute in my determination to share my knowledge and contribute to the improvement of coffee farming practices within my community," he said.

One effective method of persuading older coffee farmers to adopt good agricultural practices is to participate in prestigious coffee competitions, such as the Kape Dose Coffee Quality Competition and the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC). These events provide an opportunity to showcase the benefits of modern farming techniques and their impact on the quality of the coffee produced.

The Basco family achieved great success at the 2023 Kape Dose Coffee Quality Competition. Rian Vonn Basco was awarded the title "Best Fine Robusta" in the region with a score of 84.33. Cipriano Basco placed 6th with a score of 83.58, while Edna Basco came in 9th with a score of 82.67. Rey John Basco himself secured the 12th position with a score of 81.42.

In 2017, Basco took part in PCQC for the first time and won the "Best Washed Process" in the Robusta category. He placed third at the 2022 PCQC in another Robusta category and finished eighth in 2023. These consistent feats demonstrate his ability to produce high-quality Robusta coffee that can compete on a global level.

He was also honored with the CQI Merit Award at the 2023 Philippine Coffee Expo's closing ceremony on June 4 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. He was recognized as an "Exceptional Coffee Processor" for his significant contributions to the Philippine coffee sector. Basco was among the Q Professionals who received this prestigious award.

Basco was allowed to showcase his coffee at various international expos, including the 2022 South Korea CaféShow and the 2023 Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland, Oregon. These events provided him with a platform to share his passion for coffee and connect with other industry professionals from around the world.

Now that they have established a name for themselves through their participation in various competitions, the Basco family has been able to boost their brand and ensure its sustainability. They are committed to maintaining the high quality of their coffee and are actively educating their suppliers on best practices. By doing so, they hope to continue producing exceptional coffee that meets the highest standards.

On October 29, 2022, Seven R Café opened its doors in Tacurong City. The café serves locally produced coffee and aims to promote the local coffee industry.

Basco acknowledges that there is still much room for improvement and development in their coffee farming and production. He does not claim to be successful. Instead, he wants to remain grounded and focused on helping the coffee industry. As a 24-year-old agripreneur, he still has a lot to contribute to the industry.

"I envision that we will become one of the biggest producers of Robusta coffee in the country. I want to help promote Sultan Kudarat coffee and be able to help the farmers. This will provide job opportunities in the local community, particularly for IP youth and farmers."

He thought that by purchasing coffee cherries from farmers at a premium price, he would help them increase their income, but only if they produced high-quality cherries. To buy fresh cherries within the Sultan Kudarat province, he says it would require additional capital. Along with this thought of giving back to coffee farmers in his hometown, Basco has continuously built his linkages and a direct market in Manila and other parts of the country and is working towards exporting coffee from Sultan Kudarat to the global market.

Despite being recognized for his efforts and having established a strong network in the coffee industry, Basco recognizes that there is a need for a steady supply of coffee as demand has risen in recent years.

"It is important to never stop learning about coffee and how to handle it. The coffee industry is constantly evolving with new techniques and methods. It is essential to stay up-to-date to produce the best possible cup of coffee," he said. (Genory Vanz Alfasain/Soccsksargen Coffee Council/PIA SarGen)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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Region 12

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