Reigniting growth in Philippines seaweed industry

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) has developed techniques to produce fast growing seaweeds as local production continues to dwindle.

SEAFDEC associate scientist Maria Rovilla Luhan said the Iloilo-based center tried producing seaweeds from spores to replace the existing stock, as well as through tissue culture.

 “We are also doing field trials of farming techniques developed to increase the production of farmers. If this will be successful, we have to ask the government support to put up facilities for this technology,” she added.

Since 1970, planting of seaweeds is done by cutting young branches and growing them.

According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, seaweed is the top aquaculture commodity, followed by milkfish (bangus) and tilapia.

 Last year, seaweed production reached 1.57 million metric tons valued at P8.32 million.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources estimates that around 12,000 farmers are involved in seaweed farming.

“This is a family activity in most coastal villages. Many coastal villagers are involved in seaweed farming because of low input or capitalization,” said Luhan, who also heads the research division’s farming systems and ecology section.

Based on data from the Department of Trade and Industry, revenue from seaweed products amounted to $52.7 milliion.

“The big processors and traders are gaining more than the farmers,” Luhan said.

The common species of seaweed that thrive in the country are Kappaphycus alvarezii  and Kappaphycus striatum which are sold at P35-45 per kilogram, and Eucheuma denticulatum priced at P10 to P20 per kg.

To help rejuvenate the ailing seaweed industry, SEAFDEC gives assistance to non-government organizations, local government units and government agencies on seaweed farming.

“We have manuals and provide online help. We also guide on-the-job trainees and students from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” Luhan said.

The SEAFDEC is doing field trials of farming techniques with the aim of boosting the production of seaweeds.

“If this turns out to be successful, we have to ask support from the government to put up facilities for this technology,” Luhan said.

Aside from being eaten fresh from the sea, seaweeds are used in the food industry as a gelling agent, stabilizer and thickener.  They are also utilized for biomedical purposes.

SEAFDEC is an autonomous inter-governmental body mandated to develop and manage the fisheries potential of the region by rational utilization of the resources for providing food security and safety to the people and alleviating poverty through transfer of new technologies, research and information dissemination activities.

It has  11 member-countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The SEAFDEC Secretariat acts as the focal point for channeling and implementing the decisions and resolutions of the council of directors.


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