PALAWAN TOPS ALL PROVINCES in seaweed production, according to Palawan Today. It produced 456,000 metric tons in 2010. (That’s 456 million kilos.)
Seaweed is grown in 8,500 hectares and farmed by 7,500 seaweed farmers through Palawan’s 22 municipalities.
Majority of seaweed production originates in the island municipalities of Cagayancillo, Agutaya and Balabac. Raw and dried seaweeds are sold to (mostly Cebu-based) buyers where these are processed to carrageenan or kelp powder.
Seaweeds farming is a low-cost and labor-intensive venture and is a viable supplemental source of livelihood for the country’s fishermen. Local governments are promoting seaweed farming both as a means of sustainable livelihood and as a deterrent to destructive fishing methods.
There was a need
Rodney’s sending two daughters through college so he took to farming seaweed for the extra income. He spent at least an hour on them in the morning and another hour or two in the afternoon.
So extra income was the seaweed farmer’s goal in this story. The Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (BFAR) seems to have done a decent job of training farmers up and down the western coast of southern Palawan. Rodney said that he was taught, along with other fishermen, several years ago.
Hip hip hooray!
According to BFAR:
- The Philippines is one of the top producers of seaweeds in the world, specifically the red seaweeds – next to China and Japan.
- Seaweeds are exported either in raw forms (fresh or dried seaweeds) or processed forms (semi-refined chips/carrageenan and refined carrageenan).
- The major importing countries of seaweeds and its natural products are France, Korea, China, USA and Hong Kong.
- Sixty percent is processed into semi-refined chips of carrageenan while 30% are dried and exported raw. The remaining 10% is processed into refined carrageenan.
The Seaweed Farmer
Those seaweeds were freshly harvested.
Rodney tended his harvest twice a day: for at least an hour in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. (Notice his attire.)
Sun & Wind
The process needs to be monitored since seaweeds can get sunburned and or windburned. Two things act on the seaweeds: the sun and wind. You want to keep them in check. You don’t want it sunburned or windburned.
Let me clarify those captions. I’m not sure whether the burnt color is the color at the start or end of the drying process. I just don’t remember.
The model below was likely created in 2003 or 04. I’ve encircled the transaction price between the farmers and the first party in the supply chain, the local traders.
A metric ton contains 1,000 kilos.
What we learned
We learned something about the market in southern Palawan. The market price in his area is Php 53. Thanks to BFAR, we know how seaweed gains in value. At each step of the way, a party contributes something to the chain. The farmer produces. The trader accumulates them, may process them, and ultimately exports them. The end-user may be in the food or cosmetics industry.
Look at how narrow the spread of prices is! From the farmer to the last domestic party is only a jump from 60 to 115, just 55 pesos between three parties.
Even if Rodney were to export it directly, “dried” sells for only $2 per kilo (which is 86 pesos). Big money awaits only if Rodney were to process his seaweed for then the price increases to $12 to $14 per kilo (for food-grade) and for $18 to $20 per kilo (for refined seaweed).
Oh, and we also learned that the production cycle of seaweeds is three months long: from seeding to harvesting to drying.
You can enlarge these photos.