THE seaweed farmers in the country are seeking financial support from the government so they could boost production and cater the global demand.
Max Ricohermoso chairman emeritus of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (Siap) said government assistance is more than needed now especially that the industry has grown to P20 billion.
“We need the corresponding funding and insurance assistance,” said Ricohermoso, in a text message.
Siap members held a three-week congress in Cebu last Oct. 10 to 12 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino. The congress zeroed-in on the theme on sustainability and the opportunities and challenges in brings to the industry.
Ricohermoso identified financing for farmers, consistent raw material quality and market sustainability as among the pressing concerns faced by the industry.
Seaweed is one of the most important aquaculture commodities in the Philippines.
Farmers usually enjoy a good harvest from January to June, which are considered peak months for seaweed farming.
The Philippines is the top exporter of carrageenan to the United States.
Carrageenan is an input in meat processing, processed food, dairy products, condiments, personal care products and pet food products.
Over the past five years, the value of Philippine carrageenan exports to the US catering to both the organic and non-organic markets stood at $28.1 million, according to the USDA-Global Agricultural Trade System.
Ricohermoso said the industry is working on growing its production more as demand for seaweed globally has grown particularly for industrial use.
In her talk at the seaweed congress, Sen. Cynthia Villar invited the seaweed farmers to borrow funding from the P5-billion agricultural enhancement competitiveness fund (Acef) to boost the industry’s production.
Of the P5 billion, Villar said P4 billion goes to farmers’ credit assistance; and half a billion each for research and development and scholarship for the farmers’ children.
She said tapping into government’s agri-funds could help the industry continuously serve the rising demand of the steady market.
“The challenge now is to produce more so we could export more,” said Villar, who is the chairperson of senate committee on food and agriculture.
Other than access to credit, Villar also mentioned other challenges in seaweed farming such as limited source of alternative income from seaweed, research and development on seaweed applications, promotion of available seaweed products, and the lack of climate-proof agri-fishery facilities in the country.
Moreover, she assured the seaweed industry that the government is doing its best to protect the country’s sources of marine products.
She said they have increased fines and penalties against people who commit illegal fishing activities and other activities harmful to marine life.
“Sustainable seafood is really the goal for all us. Since our oceans will not be able to keep up with the rising demand for fish, we need fish farming or aquaculture to grow. Of course, seaweed is among the most important aquaculture commodities in our county,” she said.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) targets to increase the seaweed production by at least five percent annually from the year 2017 to 2022.
The Philippines is one of the few in the world which pioneered farming of seaweeds in substantial quantities, about 90 percent of which are exported.
Last year, harvest was below expectation due to high farmgate prices and bad weather conditions.
Ricohermoso earlier said that the industry’s outlook for the remaining months of the year continues to be optimistic as players embark on new applications for seaweed.
Moreover, the seaweed production, according to Ricohermoso has remained steady, with Palawan providing the biggest number of volume.
“We are praying of no major weather disturbances as we end the year. Otherwise, this will somehow reduce the volume,” he said.
The seaweed industry is aiming to produce 100,000 metric tons of seaweed for the year almost the same in 2017.