Ronnel W. Domingo (Inquirer.net)
A roadmap for the seaweed industry is being prepared as demand for Philippine supplies is starting to pick up in other countries, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said a policy direction for the period 2017-2022 was needed to help farmers establish a sustainable and competitive seaweed industry.
“We shall include in the National Seaweed Program provisions on how we are going to use idle fish ponds in the country,” said Piñol, who met with officials of an Ireland-based company last week.
Piñol said Ocean Harvest Technology Ltd. (OHT) presented to him their proposal to develop and commercialize ulva—also known as sea lettuce—in the country to process it into animal feeds.
The agriculture chief was told that while ulva is considered a nuisance, it is a good source of minerals and vitamins and, thus, good material for making animal feeds.
Piñol said OHT expressed interest in exploring the potential of harvesting ulva in Cebu, Bohol, Pampanga and Tawi-Tawi.
The company proposed to buy 3,000 tons of dried seaweed, to be used in its processing facility in Vietnam and intended for selling in North America.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) hopes to see production volumes increase by 5 percent yearly in the next six years, as well as to regain the country’s status as the world’s leading producer of seaweeds.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the DA said Indonesia overtook the Philippines as top seaweed producer in 2009. The Philippines produced then only 1.7 million metric tons against Indonesia’s 2.79 million tons.
BFAR said the following factors would help the Philippines regain global lead in seaweed production: greater access to credit and market; provision of alternative income for seaweed farmers aside from the selling of raw dried seaweed; research and development on seaweed applications; promotion of available seaweed products; and addressing the lack of sustainable and climate-proof agri-fishery facility in the country.