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Proper post-harvest method improves seaweed prices

MALUSO, Basilan – Improving the quality of dried seaweed will boost competitiveness in the local market and increase the income of seaweed farmers.

This came out in a workshop on the proper handling and maintenance of seaweed post-harvest facilities (PHF) for members of the Upper Port Holland Seaweed Growers Association (UPHSGA) in this municipality. It was conducted by the USAID-funded Livelihood Enhancement and Peace (LEAP) Program, in partnership with the Orient Integrated Development Consultants, Inc.

Some 20 members of the organization, composed of former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants, were taught how to maximize the use of bamboo stilt-type solar dryers and motorized bancas to increase production and support other economic activities in the town.

Ismael Basa, president of UPHSGA, said that the right handling of seaweed is a key factor in commanding a good price in the market.

Without solar dryers, seaweed farmers dry their produce on concrete pavements or roads. Basa said this method is not advisable because impurities like sand and plastic get mixed with the seaweed. The produce is sold for as low as P20 per kilogram.

On the other hand, seaweed dried with proper post-harvest technology, which means using bamboo stilt-type solar dryers has low moisture content and minimal impurities. The price goes up to P28 per kilogram.

Motorized bancas are used for the maintenance of seaweed production sites and transport. One banca can accommodate as much as 400 kilograms of seaweed per trip.

The farmers started seaweed production early this year with help from the LEAP Program and the British Embassy.

The beneficiaries received production inputs and technical assistance for one seaweed production cycle, with an expected yield of almost a ton of dried seaweed. This is 100 percent more than the typical seaweed harvest in the area. Maluso is located at the southwestern portion of Basilan. It is about an hour’s trip by land from the provincial capital of Isabela City, which is another 45-minute boat ride from Zamboanga City.

The Philippines is the third largest seaweed producing country in the world, next to China and Japan. Seventy-five percent of the total output comes from Western Mindanao, the region where Basilan belongs. It earns over $100 million in exports annually. – LEAP

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