$800M worldwide; $250M seaweed industry employs 1.2 M Filipino workers

[Philippines] The $250-million annual carrageenan and seaweeds market in the Philippines provides jobs and incomes to 1.2 million Filipinos, according to Maximo A.

Ricohermoso, chairman of the Seaweeds Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP).Ricohermoso said the Philippines is the backbone of the $800 million global carrageenan industry.

In turn,  he said, seaweeds are the fastest growing part of the food additive applications industry worth $10-billion worldwide, said Ricohermoso.

“We need to promote seaweed products locally,” said Dr. Della Grace Bacaltos,  who leads value-adding research and development (R&D) at Southern Philippines Agri-Business and Marine Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST) in Malita, Davao del Sur.

Farmers are too dependent on limited options like exports, Bacaltos said. Farmers depend a lot on traders who, in turn, depend on markets without which prices nosedive.

The current price here is P4 a kilogram for wet and P25/kg for dried seaweed, way “too low,  according to SIAP  considering that  dried seaweed sells for P40 to P45 in Davao City, 45 kilometers north.

 “One option is to encourage local demand for processed seaweeds,” said Bacaltos who, as head of external affairs at SPAMAST, gets to meet small businesses.

“We have to start   processing  carrageenan to supply the local market,” she said. “We must inform meat processors that seaweeds can be used as meat binders for sausages, hotdogs and so on.”

“We must think local before we think of the export market because this is one industry that really supports the poor,” said Bacaltos.

Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and   the Southern Mindanao Agriculture Resources Research and Development Consortium ( SMARRDEC)  are  encouraging the expansion of seaweed farms beyond the fourth of a hectare average  in Davao del Sur; part of this is the training of 95 farmers and housewives on seaweed value adding entrepreneurship such as making seaweeds-based foliar fertilizer, buko substitute, noodles, crackers and pastries.

Seaweeds are largely cultured in Mindanao which supplies half of the national output. With expanding markets, seaweed or its derivatives (carageenan) is among the country’s top 10 exports. The cultured species are mostly Eucheuma cotonnii and Eucheuma spinosum varieties which are rich sources of carageenan.

Tawi-Tawi and Sulu in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula in Western Mindanao are the top producers, followed by seaweed farms in the Davao provinces led by Davao del Sur (67 percent of the regional output) and Davao Oriental (33 percent).

“Seaweed farming means mostly small-scale farmers who continue to suffer low productivity due to unfavorable farm location, diseases and vulnerability to market forces dominated by rural traders, wholesalers, retailers and processors,” said Bacaltos.

Some farmers can sell direct to the big exporters and/or processors. But small farmers have to pass through a long line  of middlemen.

“Because the buying price is determined by the exporters or processors, the small-scale farmers who represent the majority of the producers receive only a small part of the profit,” Bacaltos said. “A large chunk goes to the middlemen, assembler or wholesaler.”

The large-scale exporters/processors may be subsidiaries of foreign processors or independent exporters or processors/exporters. Growers have limited market information on the buying prices, and they have limited control over the pricing of products. “Thus, they are poorly rewarded for the efforts and risks they endure,” she said.

One way out of this, Bacaltos said, is to add value by encouraging small entrepreneurs to process seaweeds into more expensive commodities.

Substitute seaweeds for buko this Christmas. It’s easy, and could spur the growth of a stagnant local market for gulaman.

Buy a P12-sachet of agar (gulaman) powder, local price, boil not too soft nor too hard, scrape just like you do with buko (that’s P25 a nut, in comparison), mix with fruits and you get a seaweed cocktail.

The recipe, research and development comes from SPAMAST which is encouraging women’s groups to process seaweeds beyond the traditional gulaman.

The R&D is funded by PCAARRD through the SMARRDEC. The consortium includes the University of Southeastern Philippines and SPAMAST.


View original article at: $800M worldwide; $250M seaweed industry employs 1.2 M Filipino workers 


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