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Press Release




Farmer-entrepreneur Lendilou Loon (left) shares her thoughts with executives of Biggby Coffee (seen on the screen in the background) as Assistant Secretary Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra (right), Consul General J. Susana V. Paez (2nd from right) and OIC-Regional Executive Director Zaldy Boloron intently listen. (Photo: DA/Marlon Rufo)

22 April 2024 (Chicago) - A Philippine delegation comprised of officials from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and young coffee farmers, with the assistance of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, conducted business meetings at the National Louis University in Chicago on 15 April 2024.

Led by DA Assistant Secretary for Consumer Affairs, Atty. Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra, and Agriculture Counsellor Lupiño Lazaro, Jr., the ten (10)-person delegation included farmer-entrepreneur Lendilou Loon of Sergio-Loon Coffee Farm and Emeline Sabado, executive director of the Filipino Coffee Institute. Farmer-entrepreneur Denz Deramos joined the meeting from the Philippines virtually.

The Philippine Consulate General in Chicago led by Consul General J. Susana V. Paez facilitated and participated in the meetings. The delegation met with owners and executives of Biggby Coffee, Mano Modern Cafe, and SelectGlobal.

Assistant Secretary Guevarra and Consul General Paez shared the good news about the emerging Philippine specialty coffee industry that was now capable of producing export-quality coffee, and saw inspiration in the stories of young entrepreneurial farmers that were providing meaningful and sustainable livelihood for members of their communities.

Farmer-entrepreneur Denz Deramos (onscreen, right frame) shares his views virtually as Assistant Secretary Velicaria-Guevarra, Agriculture Counsellor Lupino Lazaro, Jr. and Biggby Coffee executives (seated, right column) listen. (Photo: DA/Marlon Rufo)

Michigan-based Biggby Coffee is a coffee shop chain with more than 370 locations across the United States, and is on track to reach 500 stores by 2024. The enterprise was represented by owners Bob and Michelle Fish, Filipino-American multi-unit franchise owner and Oakland County area representative Ed Buison and spouse Eileen Buison, and director for sustainable farming and quality assurance Jorge Ferrey. They shared Biggby’s advocacy for ethical and sustainable farming, with the goal of achieving 100% farm-direct sourcing by 2028. They expressed interest in visiting the Philippines to explore potential partnerships with coffee farmers.

Mano Modern Cafe, a new Filipino-American-owned coffee shop and food restaurant in Chicago, was represented virtually by co-owners Melvin Reyes and Zandro Zafra, who were in Los Angeles for a pop-up store event. They shared the high demand for Filipino specialty coffee by Filipino food establishments, but noted the challenges of limited supply of coffee beans and consequently securing them at competitive prices.

SelectGlobal, a trade and investment consultancy firm with access to companies and localities in the Greater Chicago metropolitan area, was represented by its founder and president, Michael Edgar. He provided an overview of the Chicagoland business environment, and shared some thoughts on how to better serve the needs of the Filipino-American and mainstream markets.

The Department of Agriculture, with the assistance of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC and the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, vowed to facilitate the continued development of Philippine specialty coffee and other high value crops to meet the increased demand in the US Midwest. This would contribute to the Philippine government’s agribusiness and inclusive growth objectives, including providing meaningful and sustainable livelihood to a new generation of farmers and their communities through export-quality products and international trading acumen. END

Biggby Coffee executives led by Bob Fish (4th from left) and Michelle Fish (3rd from left) articulate their advocacies pertaining to sustainable and ethical farm-direct coffee sourcing. (Photo: DA/Marlon Rufo)

Mano Modern Café owners Melvin Reyes and Zandro Zafra (onscreen) discuss the challenges faced by Filipino restaurants in sourcing specialty coffee from the Philippines. (Photo: DA/Marlon Rufo)

Assistant Secretary Guevarra (3rd from right) poses with SelectGlobal President Michael Edgar (4th from right) and other Philippine officials (L-R: Marlon Rufo, Leah Magaway, Luzviminda Tolentino, Zaldy Boloron, Lupino Lazaro, Jr., Ryan Gener, and Joyce Bengo) behind a display of Philippine export products. (Photo: DA)