By Stephanie Sevillano

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday underscored the need to boost the production and exportation of the local seaweed.

In a news release, DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said the country has the potential to regain its global top spot in terms of seaweed exportation, just like in the 1990s.

“Indonesia already surpassed our production…(but) we still have (an) unutilized area of 85,000 hectares. Until we reach that, we shouldn’t stop. If possible, we should accelerate the industry’s area expansion,” he said.

According to the DA, Indonesia currently produces five times more than the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Tiu Laurel said local harvest could generate as much as PHP550 million per 10,000 tons of dried seaweed each year.

He, however, noted the industry leaders’ concerns, including the lack of seedlings, logistical issues, and high power cost, among others.

The country’s seaweed processing facilities are also in Cebu and Manila even though most production comes from Mindanao.

To resolve these, Tiu Laurel said the industry must be supported with bigger tissue culture laboratories, provision of training to more technicians, and securing additional ports and power plants in the country.

He said there is also the need to drop logistics costs.

“There are a lot of dry containers in Zamboanga. I think we can solve the logistics issue there if we coordinate with other industries. It’s a matter of convergence,” Tiu Laurel said.

To date, local farmers can generate 70,000 metric tons of seaweed annually.

In 2022, the country generated USD350 million or around PHP19.6 billion worth of export sales for seaweed, much higher than the pandemic export sales of USD250 million or PHP13.99 billion. (PNA)