Seaweed farmers brace for dry spell
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - April 4, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The onset of the dry spell season may affect the performance of the seaweed industry in the Philippines, but players are confident that farmers can overcome this challenging weather.

Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) chairman Maximo Ricohermoso made this assurance following the reported P28 million estimated losses in seaweed farms in northern Cebu due to El Niño.

In an interview with Ricohermoso yesterday, he said that seaweed farmers in the Philippines particularly are already used to the unpredictable weather conditions, including extreme hot weather.

The dry-spell he said may affect the quality of seaweed produced, but farmers have already figured out long before how to counter the effect of mild-drought.

About 300 hectares of seaweed farm in northern Cebu, specifically in the town of Bantayan, reported a combined damage of about P28 million brought about by the mild El Niño.

The Cebu Provincial Agriculturist Roldan Saragena reported early this week that these seaweed farms are affected by ice-ice disease, a seaweed disease caused by changes in salinity, ocean temperature and light temperature.

Ricohermoso is confident that farmers can cope with the crisis, reiterating that this kind of minor calamity is part of a seaweed farming cycle.

Meanwhile, the seaweed demand from the world market continues to climb, pushing prices to stabilize.

“The demand now is good, as well as the price,” Ricohermoso said indicating the good prospects of seaweed business.

To help the farmers recover their losses, the Provincial Government announced to release P25 million from its quick response fund as initial response to the needs of those affected by the dry spell.

In an earlier report, Saragena said the planting materials will only be released after El Niño has passed. If given now, the seaweed would only rot.

Affected seaweed farmers can also avail themselves of the “cash-for-work (and) food-for-work” programs of Capitol.

The demand for refined and semi-refined carrageenan has phenomenally grown in recent years, added Ricohermoso.

Industry players attribute advances in food science technology and health consciousness against high fat and cholesterol that made carrageenan more competitive as a fat replacement food additive.

The industrial uses of carrageenan also include medical syrups and antibiotics, as well as gel form air fresheners. It is also found effective as a creaming and thickening material in automobile carpeting, foam cushions and even for electric insulation.

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