DA allots P265M to perk up seaweed industry

TO pump-prime the country’s seaweed industry and regain its distinction as the world’s top seaweed and carrageenan producer, the Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) will allot an initial budget of P265 million in 2013.

“The amount is more than six times the current 2012 budget of DA-BFAR for the seaweed sector of about P40.8M, as we aim to attain a double-digit growth of at least 10 percent,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala before 500 seaweed farmers, industry stakeholders and national and local government officials who attended the national seaweed industry convention, in Cebu City, November 15, 2012, spearheaded by the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) in partnership with the DA-BFAR, DA Region 7, DOST, DTI and DILG.

He said bulk of the budget will fund the provision of input assistance to seaweed farmers, consisting mainly of quality and disease-free seaweed plantlets or propagules, worth P232.7 million. The rest will be spent for infrastructure and postharvest facilities (P22.3M), and establishment and maintenance of seaweed nurseries (P8.6M).

The DA chief also urged the SIAP and DA-BFAR to craft a long-term comprehensive seaweed industry plan or roadmap, which should be reviewed and updated every six months.
For his part, DA-BFAR national director Asis Perez said his agency in partnership with seaweed farmers, SIAP and other industry stakeholders will expand seaweed hectarage, from the current 56,600 hectares, which is merely 23 percent of total potential area of 255,000 hectares.
“To show our commitment, we have designated a national seaweed industry coordinator, in Isidro M. Velayo, Jr.,” Director Perez said. Velayo will serve as the focal person on all matters and initiatives on the Aquino government’s national seaweed development program and will also coordinate with seaweed farmers and other industry stakeholders like SIAP, DOST, and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

Perez said the DA-BFAR will also partner with SUCs to produce tissue-cultured seaweed propagules for distribution to farmers. This will ensure that they will produce quality, disease-free seaweeds.
In 2011, the country produced a total of 1.84 million metric tons (MMT) of seaweeds (eucheuma kappaphycus), which is processed into carrageenan, a powder with gel-like properties, used as additive in various food, pharmaceutical and industrial products.

The country’s major seaweed producers are Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, which harvested a total of 686,450 MT in 2011, or more then one-third of total national output. Palawan ranked third, with a total harvest of 483,190 MT.
The Philippines exported $155.6M-worth of seaweeds in 2010, of which 75% is carrageenan, mainly to the USA, China and France.

For his part, Velayo said the Philippines has pioneered in successfully farming seaweeds, particularly the eucheuma kappaphycus species.

“We used to be the world’s top seaweed and carrageenan producer up until 2007. The following year and to this date, Indonesia has dislodged us,” said Velayo. In 2009, for instance, Indonesia harvested 2.79 million metric tons (MMT), which is 60% more than our annual output of 1.73 MMT.

He said the country’s carrageenan processors are importing up to 60,000 MT of dried seaweeds from Indonesia to fill up the annual shortfall.

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