AMID challenges in the global market, the seaweed sector is looking forward to a demand resurgence as carrageenan becomes an important ingredient in food, health care, beauty, nutraceuticals, and new industrial applications.

Seaweed Industry of the Philippines (SIAP) Chairman Maximo Ricohermoso said a strong demand for caulerpa (locally known as lato) will continue as fresh seaweed salad gains more popularity.

The seaweed exporter also added other species, such as ulva that can be used as a livestock feed ingredient, will make their mark both in local and export markets. The sargassum species may also be given due attention, both for its cultivation and eventual use, with certain regulatory limits.

“Carrageenan demand for these new applications is much greater than current usage,” he said.

New markets

Seaweed farmers, according to Ricohermoso, were greatly discouraged in the past but they believe it will be a good year for them now especially if more liberalized financing would be available to them.

South America, Middle East, Africa and West Asia are the new target markets of seaweed exporters.

The sector is facing a huge battle against the US National Organic Standard Board’s (NOSB) move to remove carrageenan from the list of ingredients “approved for use in inorganic food.”

“Stakeholders are raising a strong drive against such negative campaigns by competitors and anti-carrageenan advocates,” said Ricohermoso.

Seaweed is a $250-million industry in the Philippines with an estimated 200,000 farmers who rely on seaweed farming for a living. The Philippines is the largest exporter of carrageenan to the US. In 2015 alone, the US imported $44.3 million of carrageenan from the Philippines.