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December 6, 2008

Philippines’ seaweed exports to grow 14%
The seaweed or hydrocolloids industry in the Philippines continues to grow by 10 to 14 percent annually, with earnings of $3 billion expected  this year, national news agency PNA reported.

Biologist and seaweed consultant Ronald Simbajon in his presentation at the Mindanao Investment Conference said there are three big major companies serving as key players of the industry with state-of-the-art facilities, including 18 local processors.

China is identified as the emerging major buyer for raw material of the carrageenan industry.

Statistics showed five years ago, over 100 carrageenan processors were already operating. There are more than 50 additional producers today.

The carrageenan industry requires about 80,000 metric tons of dried seaweeds annually.

The growing seaweed industry has benefited 160,000 coastal and island dwelling families and allied services farming of over 20,000 hectares.

Simbajon said the seaweed industry is a lucrative business. One quarter hectare can generate an annual income of 300,000 peso ($6,113) at an investment cost of 80,000 peso.

One quarter hectare planted with seaweed would produce 1,000 kg. per cropping within a 60-day cycle.

Seaweed raw material could be applied to various food and non-food products and liquids, among others: jellies, ham, patties, sauce, juice, petfood, toothpaste, ice cream, beer, milk and chicken.

Aside from economic benefits, seaweed is also a catalyst for ecological preservation since its biomass attracts various marine species that provides sanctuary and breeding ground for marine life while dramatically minimizing destructive fishing practices, Simbajon said.

In Mindanao, seaweed farming thrives in the farmlands of Zamboanga, Cagayan, Cotabato, Butuan, Davao Region and General Santos.

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