CHINA is still buying huge volumes of dried seaweeds, but the output from Davao is still so small and cannot meet the volume required by Chinese buyers.

This was revealed by seaweed industry cluster chair Domingo Ang to consultants of Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) during a recent monitoring meeting here.

"China is still buying seaweeds. But we can't supply their big volume demand for dried seaweeds at this time," said Ang, who also heads the Davao chapter of PhilExport as chair.

Traditional seaweed producing areas of the Philippines where seaweeds are grown in large quantities are Bohol, Palawan, Zamboanga, Tawi-tawi, Basilan and Sulu.

Foreign buyers of dried seaweeds processed them into refined and semi-refined carrageenan, a white powdery substance used for hundreds of consumer and industrial applications, according to Ang.

Most buyers of locally-grown, dried seaweeds are carrageenan plants in Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao which process them into carrageenan powder for export to buyers in US, China and Europe. Due to the low output, some of these plants are importing seaweeds from Indonesia.

Current prices for dried seaweeds bought by local plants range from P36 to P40 a kilo, as quoted by traders and export consolidators, according to Jeffrey Sevilla, regional seaweed coordinator for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Sevilla said wet seaweeds fetch a very low price, usually at P4 to P5 a kilo, for seaweed species commonly used as a side table dish, eaten raw together with grilled tuna or pork meat.

To strengthen the support of local officials in Samal for seaweed farmers, the industry cluster led by Ang has scheduled a meeting with the mayor and other island officials to present and discuss the seaweed pilot projects and sign a Memorandum of Understanding together.

"We need the support of these local officials in helping the seaweed farmers of Samal island succeed in their venture of growing seaweeds for their livelihood," Ang said.