Nelly Favis-Villafuerte: The future of seaweed industry – PART II

[Philippines] On the day (April 29th, Saturday) Part I of my series of articles on the seaweed industry appeared in this column, I received letters (via e-mail) from my readers requesting for a copy of the six-page report of the Seaweed Industry prepared by Oscar Monzales, formerly the Secretary General of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) from 1998 to 2009.  One of the letters (via e-mail) that I received was from Dr. Edo Andriesse, a Dutch Professor in the College of Social Sciences, Seoul National University of the Republic of Korea.

Here is Professor Edo Andriesse’ letter to me:

“Dear Nelly Favis-Villafuerte,

“My name is Edo Andriesse and I am a Dutch human geographer based in Seoul doing research about seaweed farmers’ livelihoods in the Philippines. My collaborator and I published an article in January that I will send you Monday. Your article in today’s Manila Bulletin is very interesting and important for the many poor seaweed farmers. We did fieldwork in Iloilo, Guimaras, Sorsogon and Palawan and three issues seem to be important to me:

“Seaweed farmers are vulnerable and cannot influence price setting. Middlemen/traders wield too much influence.

“Due to climate change I do not think seaweed should be the only way for fisher folk to diversify their income sources. It is simply too vulnerable. Seaweed is not the silver bullet that can push people out of poverty for good and stop overfishing. According to our research fisher folk with some agricultural land and those with children sending remittances have the most stable livelihoods.

“The government has handed out much equipment and seaweed seedlings to seaweed growers. In addition there is also a need for skills such as financial literacy, investment, planning, budgeting and risk reduction skills. Without this many seaweed farmers and associations cannot function properly and middlemen/traders can easily dominate and influence them.

“I hope you could send me the 6 six page report you referred to in your article. I will send you our article Monday and later in June the draft of our Sorsogon, Palawan, Guimaras study.

“With best wishes,
Dr. Edo Andriesse
Assistant Professor
Department of Geography
College of Social Sciences
Seoul National University
Republic of Korea”

Dr. Edo Andriesse’s e-mail reveals his firm grasp of the seaweed situation in the Philippines.

Not many know that our country is one of the producing countries of the so-called red seaweeds known as halaman dagat in the local dialect.  These seaweeds are derived from red algae. To those in the seaweed industry, Eucheuma of the red algae is the most important variety.  Simply because Eucheuma of the red algae accounts for 98% of the total Philippine of seaweeds. The Philippines is considered the world’s leading supplier of eucheuma comprising about 80% of the total world’s supply.

Eucheuma is exported by our country in various forms – in raw dried form, in semi-processed form, and also in refined form.  Eucheuma is the source of carrageenan. Carrageenan is the processed eucheuma refined into powder. It is one of the world’s foremost food and additives today. Carrageenan is a cheap food additive compared to other additives.

Those in the seaweed industry have had their share of international intrigues when at one time in the past there were foreign groups who were peddling the idea that the Philippine carrageenan is carcinogenic. Earlier, another smear campaign against our Philippine natural grade carrageenan was spread – that our product cannot be used as food in the European market.  However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) export committee on food additives in Rome disputed this and proved that carrageenan is safe for human use as a food additive.  This was the same pronouncement made in the US market.

Later, to the credit to the persistent and patient lobbying of our seaweed industry, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) approved an International Number System (INS) –E407a- for Philippine Natural Grade (PNG) on July 1995 in Rome.  This assured the entry of PNG in the food additive list of the European Market.

In 1979, the first carrageenan processing plant in the Philippines as well as the first carrageenan refinery in Asian to produce semi-refined carrageenan was established in the province of Cebu by the late Benson Dakay, popularly known as the Seaweed King.  The seaweed processing company is known as The Shemberg Marketing Corporation, a Filipino-owned enterprise.  The late Benson Dakay was only twenty-four (24) years old when he put up the company to produce semi-refined carrageenan of which he was the Executive Officer.  At the peak of its production, Dakay of Shemberg Marketing Corporation, covered thirty (30%) percent of the world’s seaweed market with clients including Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle and Quaker.

The contribution of the late Benson Dakay to the Philippine seaweed industry is immense. From the write up of Benson Dakay in http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php/Benson_Dakay, we get the following information:

Contributions of Benson Dakay to the seaweed industry:

“Dakay led the Philippines in a series of campaign for the acceptance of the carageenan in the United States as a nontoxic food additive in 1990. In 1996, he also headed and won the same battle in the European Union. He also lobbied for the classification of PNG as a food additive in the Food Codex Alimentarius and the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants. It was because of Dakay’s leadership that allowed the PNG to continue to stay in the world market of carrageenan.” (To be continued)

Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: villafuerte_nelly@yahoo.com).

 

View original article at: The future of seaweed industry – PART II

 

 

 

 

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