They told me to make a study on how to make money on seaweeds. But I also want to tell a story on seaweeds, which I feel so deeply about. This is also a story about all farmers: seaweed farmers, vegetable farmers, corn farmers, orchard farmers and so on so forth. They are all the same. Always poor and never rich. There is always a ‘why?’ but nobody wants to know.
The seaweed industry has a poignant dilemma: “On one hand, the seaweed industry is so lucrative, but on the other, this industry is simply a means of putting food on the table”.
Amidst all the wealth found in this country, there is always a string of poverty lingering around us. The brutal hardship, humiliation and the feeling of powerlessness are all found in our poor. Our farmers are no different.
That is why there is an age-old saying: “when you eat a fruit, always think of the farmers that grows them”. Too bad, our mad race leaves no room to think about the farmers. So if the farmers are poor, why go into the business of cultivating seaweeds? We can never be rich! Yes we can, if only we can by-pass the middlemen and go direct to purchasers. This is the only right path which we must follow, and hopefully, it can make the difference for others to follow.
New fortunes are being made through the seaweed industry, but the biggest pie went to the processors and the exporters. The farmers, who are the suppliers of raw materials, ironically got the crumb and the leavings. The picture has not changed since then.
But with the involvement of BIMP-EAGA business council and the cluster working group, story of the industry may write a new chapter, especially when the big players discover from now onwards that the seaweed rainbow in the sky will continue to glow only if the those at its base get to share more of the rewards.
At the just concluded BE AGRICULTURE CLUSTER WORKING GROUP in Brunei last week, MALAYSIA took the first lead to become the Chairman of the Seaweed cluster, and this augurs well for our seaweed industry in the near future.
Seaweeds production today as well as its relating processing plants have become a high value and profitable livelihood activity in many marginal sea-farming communities as well as a profitable enterprise in urban centers of the country. A big thank you to the Malaysian Head of Delegation, Mr Joseph Wei, who relentlessly pushed for the Chairmanship in the interest of our country.
France, USA and Denmark continue to be the biggest markets for our seaweeds. Korea and China are catching up. Not far behind are Japan, Spain and Sweden.
We must now focus our attention towards increasing production to sustain the requirements of local processing activities.
For carrageenan, Denmark and France continue to be the two biggest markets.
Carrageenan is a natural marine colloidal gum extracted from some species of seaweeds belonging to the class Rhodophyceae or red algae. It is a powder derived from processed seaweeds and used as food additives. It is used to enhance a number of milk system and water system food products. Carrageenan functions as fat and foam stabilizers, emulsifiers, gel, thickeners and binders. Carrageenan is also applied in cosmetics pharmaceuticals and other nonfood products.
On the domestic front, the farmers sell their seaweeds either in wet or dried forms depending on the urgency of their needs.
Nowadays, seaweed trading has become a dominant business activity in the marine sector. The BEBC is also pushing for the Government to initiate a SEAWEED BUYING STATION and Trading House in order the price offered to growers is fair and just. We cannot rely on private middle men who practiced buying low and selling high.
Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamed
Chairman – BEBC.
12 August 2016