Seaweed industry to benefit from government livelihood projects
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - April 7, 2017 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The strong stance of the Duterte administration to help uplift the livelihood of the country's Muslim community is seen to push growth in the seaweed industry.

"It is good to note that the DA/BFAR continue to see the seaweed industry as one way of uplifting the lives of the fisherfolk," said Seaweed Industry of the Philippines (SIAP) president Max Ricohermoso in an interview yesterday.

While the industry registered flat growth in 2016, it is projected to move up this year in terms of demand and supply performance, as the government has already started to implement its sound roadmap for the industry, he said.

Simultaneously, the industry, Ricohermoso said continues to face daunting challenges, specifically in the unpredictable change of weather pattern, administrative regulations in major markets like United States, and China's relentless move to corner greater share in the world's seaweed/carrageenan market.

"The Philippines continue to be the leader in the export of carrageenan in ASEAN, but China is undermining our lead by providing their exporters undue incentives particularly tax refunds on exports," he said.

Aside from the plans for expanding and supporting the seaweed farmers in the country to enlarge supply volume, Ricohermoso said SIAP is also advocating for the Philippine government to encourage local industries to use carrageenan in newly developed applications.

Likewise, consumption of seaweeds as a vegetable such as fresh salad should be encouraged for its high nutritional value.

SIAP is meeting with the officials of the Department of Trade and Industry, and Board of Investments today (Friday) to discuss industry's roadmap, as well as the pending issue with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the United States.

Ricohermoso expressed optimism that this issue will be put to an end, in order to erase impressions that carrageenan-based products pose questionable health-effect issues under the NOSB.

Although, Ricohermoso maintains that this problem is largely influenced by trade competition, he said it is important to clear up issues of these kinds.

Carrageenan, a processed seaweed, has continued to be used in dairy-based and enriched beverages, mainly in chocolate milk and chocolate milk applications such as syrups and powdered mix.

Despite its use, carrageenan has been a questionable ingredient because it has been loosely linked to digestive inflammation, evidence that some researchers dispute. Those who defend the use of carrageenan boast about its benefits, including its effectiveness in adding texture and stability to beverages, ice cream and infant formula.

In 2015, the Philippines registered US$250 to US$270 million carrageenan exports. In 2016, the industry registered flat growth.

The flat growth is due to last year El Niño phenomenon, and unfavorable weather conditions mostly in 2016.

There are over 300,000 Filipino farmers depend their livelihood on seaweed. (FREEMAN)

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