Philippines, India jointly eye $12 billion global seaweeds market

May 29, 2021

The Philippines and India are jointly eyeing a $12 billion global market or 32 million metric tons (MT) for seaweeds as a bilateral cooperation takes off complementarily between both developing countries.

   While China and Indonesia dominate by 80% the global market, the two countries are optimistic of commonly boosting production of seaweeds and its processed form, carrageenan, through business and technical cooperation.

   The growing bilateral relations in marine fisheries and aquaculture is brought about by eagerness of private companies from both countries to invest in each other’s sector as a result of a pioneering work of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI).

Seaweed culture farming in Zamboanga. Credit-NAST

   PCAFI President DAnilo V. Fausto the industry is “happy and delighted” that Indian Ambassador to Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran brought up the idea of the India Philippines Virtual Business Conference on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (IPBC-MFA).  The first of such IPBC-MFA was held Thursday.

   “Indian fisheries sector produces over 7 million tons of fish and shellfish from capture fisheries and aquaculture, almost double of that produced by the Philippines, representing nearly 5% of the world’s total fish production,” said Fausto.

   Yet, Fausto said both countries can immensely benefit from exchange of resources, technology, know-how as Philippines also has much to offer.

   “Philippine aquaculture has strong potential for further expansion and development with our vast resources 338,393 hectares of swampland, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fishponds, and 239,323 hectares of brackish water fishponds,” Fausto said.

   “The Philippines sits at the heart of the coral triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity.  The Verde Island Passage boasts the highest concentration of marine species with its reefs as home to nearly 60% of the world’s known fishes and 300 species of corals.”

   During the business conference,   Dr. Munisamy Shanmugham M/s Aqua Agro Processing Manamaduria (Tamil Nadu)  vice president, said this is the time to invest in aquaculture, including seaweeds in India. Government, he said, has allotted budget of INR 640 crore ($88.34 million) to promote the industry and provides subsidy for seaweed cultivation.

   “There is huge demand for seaweed hydrocolloids in India, but currently 50-90% is met through imports,” said Shanmughan.

  There are new areas –Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch—that may be considered for seaweed cultivation to meet India’s demand.

   India just started to establish in 2010 its processing facilities for producing carrageenan, a value-added processed form of seaweed. Carrageenan acts as emulsifier, thickener, additive, and preservative in food and consumer products. It is an input in manufacturing dairy, gelatin, and meat products and other high value consumer products such as toothpaste and gels.

   The Philippines is a global leader in carrageenan and seaweeds and has put up its processing facilities way earlier than other countries. Its seaweeds and carrageenan exports totals to around $200 to $250 million yearly. It has strength in technology and know-how in carrageenan manufacturing. It was the first in the world to develop seaweed species Euchema and Kappaphycus for commercial cultivation for carrageenan.

Carrageenan, a thickener, enhancer, emulsifer, preservative. Credit-Medium

   Even with that, the Philippines still has huge expansion area of 140,000 hectares of potential seaweed farm for expansion, according to Alfredro Pedrosa III, Seaweed Industry Assn of the Philippines (SIAP), said in the same conference.

   “These are the resources that sustain our industry. We have available farm area of 200,000 hectares along coastlines.  Only 60,000 hectares are farmed.  We have 500,000 hectares of deep-sea available farmable area,” said Pedrosa.

   Opportunities for investments in the Philippines in seaweed industry are ripe, Pedrosa said, as domestic demand exceeds supply.

   The following factors also augur well for seaweed investments, he said:  ASEAN market integration, consumer preference for natural products such as seaweeds, and new climate change adaptation strategies and COVID pandemic recovery.

   The Philippines has continuing research and development (R&D) activities on other seaweed species.  Surprisingly, there is an abundance of 893 seaweed species in the Philippines, he said. But only a few are used for carrageenan of perhaps less than 10 species including Eucheuma, Gracilaria, Sargassum, and Kappaphycus.  Other seaweeds species to be cultured are Halymenia, Porpyra, and Ulva Lactuca. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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