CEBU-BASED Shemberg Marketing Corp. has increased its support to seaweed farmers by spending P5 million to rehabilitate seaweed farms in earthquake-stricken Bohol.
The funding was sourced through the Benson Dakay Foundation, which was created to promote seaweed farming in the Philippines.
Pierre Collin Dakay, president and chief executive officer of Shemberg Marketing Corp., said the move to rehabilitate the seaweed farms that were affected during the earthquake and typhoon Yolanda would help decrease the country’s seaweed importation.
Dakay noted eighty percent of the country’s production of spinosum seaweed grows in Bohol. He stressed the need to fast track rehabilitation as spinosum is a niche market in the seaweed industry.
“Our potential is very big. We should increase our production. We have more technology now,” he said.
Indonesia and the Philippines are the two top sources of seaweeds in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
During the aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and super typhoon last year, Dakay who is the internal vice president for Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (Siap), said seaweed players had to source out the spinosum type in other countries, even those in Africa, due to its shortage.
“The price now of spinosum seaweed, which grows largely in the country, has increased three to four times from P15 a kilo (raw) to about P45,” said Dakay.
Central Visayas is producing cottonii and spinosum varieties of seaweed from which carageenan, a gelatinous substance used in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, is derived.
Instead of maintaining operations in Indonesia, Dakay also said the company decided to have all its manufacturing operations in the Philippines to help employ more people here, specifically the farmers and their families.
Shemberg Marketing Corp. operates four seaweed plants. Three are located in Cebu while one plant is located in Zamboanga.
Aside from weather disturbances that affect seaweed production, another factor that poses a threat to the industry is the waning interest of the youth in taking up farming as a vocation.
“This is the reason we should increase production more, pour in more capital investment in agriculture and improve our farming methods to sustain the industry amid this sad reality,” said Dakay.
Seaweed production fell 11 percent in 2013 from the previous year’s aggregate annual production of 1.75 million metric tons (MT) due to the onslaught of typhoons Wilma and Yolanda, industry reports said.
This year, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources intensified its national seaweed program by establishing 66 seaweed nurseries across the country and expanding its production in the Philippine eastern seaboard, a non-traditional seaweed production area.
The Philippines currently has 14 active seaweed processing firms. More than 50 percent of the country’s national seaweed output comes from Mindanao. Zamboanga exports most of dried seaweed while Cebu dominates the processing and exporting of carrageenan.
Among the major markets for Philippine seaweed products are US, China and France.
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