Address tech woes, credit access problems, gov’t urged

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita October 15,2018 - 10:54 PM

How to help seaweed farmers

Poverty, lack of technology, and access to cheap credit remain to be the biggest challenges for the country’s seaweed industry.

If these can be addressed, more opportunities can open up for seaweed farmers especially since there continues to be a demand for the exportation of seaweed outside the country, some officials said.

Poverty

Dr. Richard Muallil, a marine science professor of the Mindanao State University — Tawi-Tawi, said that it is important for stakeholders and the government to help seaweed farmers in different parts of the country.

“Personally, as l have been doing coastal resource management, we should first address poverty among the seaweed farmers. If our seaweed farmers are not doing well, the seaweed industry in general won’t be doing well as well,” he said.

Muallil was one of the speakers during last week’s 2018 Philippine Seaweed Congress in Cebu where challenges and opportunities in the industry were discussed.

Access to insurance

In his talk which focused on the effects of climate change on the seaweed industry, Muallil said that it is also important to make sure that seaweed farmers have access to insurance so that when they are hit with disasters that can damage their farms, they will be able to bounce back.

Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) Chairman Emeritus Maximo Ricohermoso earlier said that the unpredictability of the weather has affected the sector, resulting in dwindling production.

Other challenges like high farmgate prices and strong competition from other countries that also export seaweed has also affected the industry which now has only around 100,000 farmers.

Years back, there used to be more than 250,000 farmers employed in the industry.

Yet despite these concerns, the demand for seaweed products like refined and semi-refined carrageenan continues to grow globally.

Improve processes

In order to help seaweed farmers improve their processes and take advantage of this demand, Dr. Muallil said that research and best practices should be shared among scientists and different farms from different parts of the country.

“There should be technology transfer. We have to transfer the best practices that we have to sustain the seaweed industry. We need experts to assist us,” he said.

For her part, Senator Cynthia Villar assured attendees of the congress that the government will be around to provide assistance to farmers.

Villar, who is the chairperson of the senate committee on agriculture, was the guest speaker during last week’s congress.

Just like all other farmers in different sectors, she agreed that the common challenges faced by seaweed farmers include climate change, technology, training, and financial literacy.

ACEF

Although she admitted that the government has no particular program that is specialized for the seaweed industry, Villar said there are available resources that seaweed farmers can tap into.

“They can avail of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) where there is P5 billion in the Land Bank for credit,” she said.

The ACEF is made available for all farmers across different industries.

A separate fund is available specifically for rice farmers which comprise 45 percent of all farmers in the country.

Under the ACEF, P4 billion has been set aside as a credit line for farmers while P500 million can be accessed for research and development. Another P5 million is available for scholarships for children of farmers.

Sustaining the industry

Villar highlighted the importance of sustaining the seaweed industry as it is a strong export product of the country.

Out of all harvested seaweed products, she said 90 percent are being exported to other countries.

“So we are trying to produce more so we can export more. That is the challenge. Of course, there are a lot of problems along the way. There was a time their production decreased. But the market is there because majority of the produce are exported,” Villar said.

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TAGS: access, address, Gov’t, problems, tech, urged, woes

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