Seaweed sector anticipates huge losses due to El Niño

By Vanessa Claire Lucero |March 22,2016 - 09:59 PM
CAUBIAN ISLAND /JULY 16, 2008:Caubian island barangay has a total of 3,000 population seaweeds and fishing is most of the livelihood.(CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Raw seaweeds were spread to dry under the sun in Caubian Island in this 2008 file photo. Dried seaweeds are processed into carrageenan, a food additive. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

Seaweed growers, traders and processors are anticipating losses this year as the rising sea temperatures caused by the raging El Niño phenomenon have brought down production.

Yuri Yap, executive director of the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines, said their members reported  a 15 to 20 percent reduction in seaweed output in January and February this year compared to year ago levels.

“When water is hot, the growth of seaweed may be irregular,” he said.

He said production reached about 80,000 metric tons in January and about 85,000 metric tons in February.

Without the El Niño phenomenon, production would have averaged at around 100,000 metric tons of raw  seaweed per month.

The bulk of seaweed output comes from Mindanao, which Yap said is among the areas hit hardest by the El Niño phenomenon.

In the Visayas, Bohol is one of the biggest producers.

Cebu is one of the smaller producers in the region, with seaweed requiring clean water and good salinity to grow, but it is “starting to pick up,” Yap said.

At present, all of seaweed production in the Cebu province is concentrated in the north.

“Aside from production, market demand is also quite low,” Yap said, citing a decline in exports to Europe and the US, the Philippines’ biggest markets for seaweed.

He said this was due to high inventory of seaweed products in the international markets, and the use of replacement ingredients for carrageenan.

The price of carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, has declined to $6 to $8 per kilo from $8-$10 per kilo.

In 2015, total raw seaweed production was around 1.5 million metric tons, including 98,500 metric tons of dried seaweed.

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