Seaweed Farming

Buoys nurseries seawoods farming "sea floor"

Buoys mark nurseries of seawoods being farmed at the sea floor (less than 1.5 meters deep).

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 seaweed are sold to (mostly Cebu-based) buyers where these are processed and converted into carrageenan or kelp powder.

Seaweed 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!

Quick Rundown

According to BFAR:

BFAR "Commodity Roadmaps" Bangus Milkfish Tilapia Seaweeds

Brought to you by BFAR: Commodity Roadmaps

  1. The Philippines is one of the top producers of seaweed in the world, specifically the red seaweed – next to China and Japan.
  2. Seaweed is exported either in raw form (fresh or dried seaweed) or processed form (semi-refined chips/carrageenan and refined carrageenan).
  3. The major importing countries of seaweed and its natural products are France, Korea, China, USA and Hong Kong.
  4. 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

Rodney Seaweeds Rack Farming

Rodney tending to his Seaweeds.

The seaweed above were freshly harvested.

Seaweed Farmer Banca harvest seaweed "underwater nurseries"

The seaweed farmer uses his banca to harvest seaweed from the underwater nurseries.

Rodney tended his harvest twice a day: for at least an hour in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon.

Seaweed Farmer Farming Hanging Out To Dry Bamboo Racks

A seaweed farmer hanging freshly-harvested seaweed out to dry on a bamboo rack.

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.

"Seaweed Drying" Sun Wind

A “good” dry.

"Seaweed Drying" Sun Wind


Value-added Diagram

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.

BFAR "Value Chain" "Supply Chain" Seaweed Philippines

The Supply Chain according to BFAR

A metric ton contains 1,000 kilos.

"Seaweed Farming" "Blackberry"

Rodney reveals the local price in southern Palawan, Php 53 per kilo.

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.


4 responses to “Seaweed Farming

  1. Thanks for this, all the while I thought carageenan was just spewed out by the sea, especially during the non summer months …


    • Yup, thanks for the link Angie.

      The increased demand for carrageenan in traditional markets has shored up the exports of all seaweed products, now estimated to reach $200 million in 2010 from $180 million in 2009.


  2. Pingback: Snapshot: Beach Towel and Seaweed Drying in Hot Sun | Alison Amazed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s