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Govt eyeing to hike annual seaweed output by 5%

In Photo: A fisherman gathers seaweed in Sabangan, Ilocos Sur.

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting to increase seaweed production by 5 percent annually until 2022 to regain the country’s status as the world’s leading seaweed producer.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he has directed Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Eduardo B. Gongona to craft a road map, which will be called the National Seaweed Roadmap and will detail the strategies for hiking output.

“As the huge demand toward local seaweed increases in other countries, the DA seeks to release road map for seaweed in the years 2017 to 2022 that will help farmers establish a sustainable and competitive seaweed industry,” Piñol said in a statement.

“The road map will also include the use of idle fishponds for seaweed production,” he added.

Piñol said he ordered the crafting of the National Seaweed Roadmap 2017-2022 following a meeting between the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and an Irish firm, which has expressed interest in purchasing local seaweed.

During the meeting, BFAR-National Seaweed Coordinator Irma F. Ortiz said the government is keen on regaining the country’s status as the world’s leading producer of Euchema and Kappaphycus seaweed.

Citing data from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), Ortiz said Indonesia overtook the country’s volume produced in 2008.

“It has produced 2.79 million metric tons in 2009, 60 percent higher than the Philippines’s production of only 1.73 MMT,” she said.

Ortiz said some of the key problems the government must address to hike the country’s seaweed production include limited access to credit and market; limited source of alternative income for seaweed-dependent fishermen; research and development on seaweed production.

“[Also the] the promotion of available seaweed products and lack of sustainable and climate-proof agri-fishery facility in the country,” she added.

To beef up local seaweed production, Ortiz said the BFAR implemented three programs: trainings for farmers and production of climate-resilient species; entrepreneurship training for seaweed farmers; and the promotion of  “community-based product champions”.

Piñol ordered the BFAR to closely work on the road map, which will suggest a clearer vision on how the seaweed industry will perform under the Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, the DA said Ireland-based seaweed company Ocean Harvest Technology Ltd. (OHT) made a proposal to Piñol to develop and commercialize ulva, also known as sea lettuce, in the country to process it into animal feed.

“We wanted to purchase dry seaweeds or the ulva [from] your local farmers,” said Dr. Simon Faulker, OHT quality and resource manager.

“Ulva is considered nuisance but it is a good source of minerals and vitamins, which is good in making animal feeds,” Faulker added.

The DA said OHT wanted to explore the potential of harvesting ulva in Cebu, Bohol, Pampanga and Tawi-Tawi. In the country ulva can be found in many areas of Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Norte, according to the DA.

“If approved, the company will purchase about 3,000 metric tons of dried seaweed in the country, which will be processed in their processing facility in Vietnam. The byproducts were already marketed in some parts of US and Canada,” the DA said.

Image credits: Mau Victa

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