Sunday, June 16, 2019

Seaweed prices remain stable; demand going up amid mild dry spell

SOURCE OF INCOME: Cebu-based seaweed processing firm Shemberg Marketing Corp. is helping a group of seaweed farmers in a remote area in Bohol to sustain their livelihood. Seaweed is one of the most important aquaculture commodities in the Philippines. There are about 200,000 farmers in the country who rely on seaweed farming. (Photo lifted from Shemberg's Facebook account)

THE Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (Siap) is confident that the mild dry spell experienced by the country will not drastically impact the seaweed production.

Siap chairman Max Ricohermoso said the industry is already used to this phenomenon which is part of the natural seaweed farming cycle.

Some 350 hectares of seaweed farms in the northern towns of Bantayan and Sta. Fe reportedly suffered at least P28 million worth of damage brought about by the weak El Niño.

Provincial Agriculturist Roldan Saragena in a report, said seaweeds planted by 2,550 seaweed growers in the two towns were affected by the ice-ice disease. Ice-ice is a disease condition of seaweed caused by changes in salinity, ocean temperature and light intensity.

But Ricohermoso assured that seaweed farmers have already figured out long before how to address the impact of the drought season.

Richard Simbajon, a Philexport Cebu trustee representing the seaweed sector, said they will discuss in their next board meeting how they can help the farmers cope with the situation.

He said the industry expects production of seaweed to go down in the months of May and June as a result of El Niño.

Meantime, Ricohermoso said harvest continues to be at reasonable levels and they expect continuing good prices.

“We hope and pray for continuing favorable weather conditions,” he said.

The Siap official said the industry aims to maintain 90 to 100 metric tons of seaweed production this year.

High export demand is maintained in markets like China, Europe and the United States.

Seaweed prices, according to Ricohermoso, are maintained at reasonably high levels, about P80 per kilogram for eucheuma cottonii and P30 per kilogram for eucheuma spinosum.

Cottonii and spinosum are varieties of seaweed from which carageenan, a gelatinous substance used in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, is derived.

The seaweed farmers in the country are seeking financial support from the government so they could boost production and cater to the global demand.

In earlier interviews, Ricohermoso 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,” he said, adding that they too need consistent quality of raw material and market sustainability.

Farmers usually enjoy a good harvest from January to June, which are considered peak months for seaweed farming.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources targets to increase the seaweed production by at least five percent annually from the year 2017 to 2022. (KOC)


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