[Philippines ] The country’s seaweed industry is expecting to end 2016 with flat growth as erratic weather, tight competition with Indonesia and industry attacks have continued to bring down local production.
“We would be happy if we would hit same growth as last year,” said Maximo Ricohermoso, chairman of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (Siap), in an interview yesterday.
He pointed out that while the seaweed farmers in the country have not fully recovered from the impact of the long dry spell experienced early this year, the industry is faced by another threat—the petition by the US National Organic Standards Board to remove carrageenan from its national list of organic foods/products.
Because of this, Ricohermoso said the industry has suffered 20 to 30 percent reduction in export volume in the last two years.
“We have already appealed for help from the Philippine government,” said Ricohermoso, president of MCPI Corp., one of the biggest seaweed processors in the country.
Moreover, he said that the local seaweed production is also facing tougher competition with Indonesia, which has grown five times more than the Philippines.
Last year, seaweed production reached 1.57 million metric tons valued at P8.32 million. There is an estimated 200,000 farmers in the Philippines who are reliant on seaweed for a living.
The Philippines is the largest exporter of carrageenan to the United States. Last year, the US imported $44.3 million of carrageenan in the Philippines.
Carrageenan is a gelatinous substance used in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals that is derived from seaweed.
Aside from the US, the country’s seaweed industry is also exporting to Asia, Europe and Middle East. The industry is also constantly looking for new applications of seaweed such as in beauty products to survive competition.
Next week, industry players are scheduled to convene in Cebu for a two-day convention in J Centre Mall on Nov. 24 to 25.
Ricohermoso said Siap has invited Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and Eduardo Gongona, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director and concurrent agriculture undersecretary for fisheries, to grace the event to be attended by a thousand delegates across the country including seaweed farmers.
“We hope to have a dialogue with Secretary Piñol so we could discuss the concerns of the farmers and the industry,” said Ricohermoso.
Seaweed farms in the country are located in ARMM, Palawan, Romblon, Zamboanga, Bohol and other coastal areas.
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