PH May Lose to Vietnam Status as Top Seaweed Product Exporter: Pangilinan

September 11, 2016
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MANILA – The Philippines may lose its status as the world’s major exporter of seaweed product carrageenan as Vietnam increases its support for and yield of the aquamarine resource, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Sunday as he pushed for the creation of the new Cabinet-level Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) separate from the Department of Agriculture.

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“Tayo ang number 1 exporter ng carrageenan sa buong mundo. Seaweed ang carrageenan na ginagamit sa mga gamot. Yung mga capsules, gawa sa seaweed. Pero bumababa na ang ating market share dahil ang Vietnam mas maganda ang suporta sa industriya, at siyempre mas maganda na ang output (We are the number 1 exporter of carrageenan in the entire planet. Carrageenan is a seaweed. It’s used for pharmaceuticals. The capsules are made from seaweed. But our market share is now lower because Vietnam provides better support and therefore produces better yields),” he said.

Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, is set to conduct the first hearing on separate measures seeking to create DFAR on Thursday, September 15.

The former Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization noted the skewed focus and budget toward land resources at the expense of aquatic resources.

“Apat sa lima ng ating teritoryo ay aquamarine, isa sa lima lang ang lupa, pero sa budget ng Department of Agriculture, baligtad ang ratio: 90 porsyento ang para sa lupa at 10 porsyento lang para sa aquamarine (Four-fifths of our territory is aquamarine, only one-fifth is land, but in the DA budget, the ratio is the other way around: 90 percent is for land and 10 percent only for aquamarine),” Pangilinan pointed out.

“Nagagawa naman ng DA ang mandato niya para sa aquamarine at mga mangingisda pero limitado. Dapat iwasto ito at magkaroon ng isang high-level na government agency na tututok dito (The DA is able to fulfill its mandate for aquamarine and fisher folk but in a limited sense. We should correct this by creating a high-level government agency that will focus on this),” he added.

Government and industry experts say about 70 percent of the world demand for carrageenan is for food purposes.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippines is among the world’s biggest exporters of carrageenan, an input in meat processing, processed food, dairy products, condiments, personal care products, and pet food products. The country is so well-known as a leading producer of this seaweed derivative that the international market recognizes “Philippine-grade” carrageenan as reliable.

According to the seaweed industry, carrageenan is also used as an ingredient in air freshener, oral care, pharmaceutical products, biotechnology research, and other industrial consumer product applications. It is used in a variety of commercial applications such as gelling, thickening and stabilizing agents, especially in food products such as chocolate milk, cottage cheese, frozen desserts, yogurt, pet foods, and sauces.

From 2004 to 2013, high-quality, food-grade Philippine carrageenan reached an average of $101.5 million and amounting to about 13,100 tons per year, DTI said. With a global market of 50,400 tons amounting to $615.9 million in 2013, there remains much room for growth in the manufacture of carrageenan through investments in the production of raw materials (seaweed), advanced technology for processing, and the conduct of sound research and development initiatives to enhance locally produced carrageenan.