Philippines may lose status as top exporter of carrageenan
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is likely to lose its status as the world’s major exporter of seaweed product carrageenan as neighboring country Vietnam increases its yield support for the industry.

“We are the No.1 exporter of carrageenan. But our market share is now lower because Vietnam provides better support and therefore produces better yields,” Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Francis Pangilinan said.

Carrageenan is an input in meat processing, processed food, dairy products, condiments, personal care products and pet food products.

The country is known as a leading producer of the seaweed derivative, whose produce reaches an average of 13,100 metric tons annually with cumulative amount of $101.5 million, government data showed.

Pangilinan emphasized the skewed focus and budget towards land resources at the expense of aquatic resources.

“Four-fifths of our territory is aquamarine, only one-fifth is land, but in the DA (Department of Agriculture) budget, the ratio is the other way around: 90 percent is for land and 10 percent only for aquamarine,” he said.

“The DA is able to fulfill its mandate for aquamarine and fisherfolk, but in a limited sense. We should correct this by creating a high-level government agency that will focus on this,” he added.

The senator, who served as presidential adviser for agriculture during the previous administration, continues to push for the creation of a single agency to handle the fisheries industry, separate from the DA.

In terms of carrageenan, Pangilinan said assistance through more investments in raw materials, advanced technology for processing and research and development initiatives, could help enhance the locally produced product.

According to industry experts, approximately 70 percent of the global demand for carrageenan is for food consumption.

The product is also used as an ingredient in air freshener, oral care, pharmaceutical products, biotechnology research and other industrial consumer product applications.

It is used in a variety of commercial applications such as gelling, thickening and stabilizing agents, especially in food products.

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