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

[Philippines] On my way to Manila from Bicol last Wednesday, April 26, 2017, I received an e-mail from Oscar Monzales (Oca to his friends), formerly the secretary general of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) from 1998 to 2009. I’m reproducing the e-mail as follows:

April 26, 2017, 10:22AM

“Dear Mrs. Villafuerte;

It has been a long time since I retired from SIAP. However, since my retirement, lot of things had happened on the seaweed industry and it is quite alarming.

“I am attaching herewith an article describing the seaweed industry. I wish this can go to press so that it reached to the knowledge of those involved in the industry and the government.

“Looking forward to your kind assistance on this matter and thank you very much. More power and God Bless. – Oscar Monzales”

Note: Those who are interested to have a copy of the 6-page report on the Seaweed Industry [Its Beginning, Evolution, Problems, and Possible Solutions] can e-mail me at [email protected] and I will send the report).

I have known Oca since 1999 when I was still the undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The last time I saw him was in 2003. I have always identified him with the seaweed industry together with the late Benson Dakay of the Shemberg Corporation in Cebu.

Oca Monzales now 71 years old has been engaged in the seaweed industry for 52 years now, starting way back in 1965. He has made it mission to propagate seaweed farming and is well-respected and well-loved in the rural areas especially among the seaweed farmers. Oca started to share his expertise in seaweed farming in Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi in 1974. Tawi-Tawi is one of the major producing areas of seaweeds in our country (other areas are Sulu, Zamboanga del Sur and Palawan). Oca has gone to other places in our country to promote our red seaweed industry.

Oca is one of the remaining “last mohicans” of the seaweeds industry and I am convincing him to bounce back and get over his hurt due to past nasty remarks some officials of the government in the early 2000s have made against him for his vocal and repeated pleas for assistance for the farmers in the seaweed industry. For the good of the country. This is now the opportune time to reconcile all the players in the seaweed industry (including government officials, farmers, traders, processors, SIAP officers, manufacturers, and exporters) and have serious consultations.

I agree with Oca’s statement that the situation now of the seaweed industry is already “quite alarming!” Consider the following: We used to be the leader in the seaweed industry. Not anymore. Indonesia has “crept in.” All because the seedlings of our “Kappaphycus alvarezii,” a kind of seaweed specie, were exported to Indonesia by some enterprising businessmen. (Same story as our abaca where the seedlings of laylay abaca our best abaca fiber were also smuggled to Indonesia. While we are planting abaca in small areas, Indonesia has been planting abaca in large tracts of land. How can we compete?) Finally, the quality of the seaweed we export has deteriorated. Why? The government knows the answer.

Since 2004, the production of the raw seaweed as well as the semi-refined has been declining due to quality problem and the pricing structure. The seaweed industry used to provide livelihood to more than 250,000 farmers. Now, this figure has been drastically reduced to about 100,000 and still going down.

Our government workers need to be more patient in penetrating and reaching out to the farmers involved in the seaweed industry in the remote areas. Also, the production technology of seaweeds in the Philippines should now be modified to attune to our climate change. Finally, more support to farmers during typhoons and other changes in climate conditions should be extended to rehabilitate their farms. In short, there must be a doable “new roadmap” prepared by the government in consultation with the players in the seaweed industry to revolutionize our seaweed industry.

Let me share with you the hidden wonders (uses) of seaweeds.

The man in the street may not grasp the wide-ranging benefits that seaweeds give to the human race – except the fact that he eats seaweeds once in a while. The awesome reality is that there are limitless food and non-food applications of seaweeds. The toothpaste to brush our teeth everyday has some seaweed content which acts as a stabilizing agent. Also, chocolate milk. Seaweeds also thickens ice cream and soups. Seaweeds preserves and retains the moisture in processed meat like beef patty, corn beef and salami; also enhances the juiciness of poultry. Even candies use seaweeds as stabilizers. No wonder seaweeds especially in its refined and semi-refined carrageenan is considered a part of our food culture. It is part of our life.

The demand for refined and semi-refined carrageenan has phenomenally grown for the past 20 years or so. The advances in food science technology and health consciousness against high fat and cholesterol have made carrageenan more competitive as a fat replacement food additive.

The industrial uses of carrageenan also include medical syrups and antibiotics. Not to mention the gel form air fresheners. Effective too as a creaming and thickening material in automobile carpeting, foam cushions and even in electric insulation. I can go on and on to enumerate the endless applications of seaweed – but can’t do so because of lack of space. (To be continued)

 

 

View original article at: The future of seaweed industry

 

 

 

 

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