Local bamboo and seaweed producers are asking the government for P2.2 billion budget allocation to achieve the full economic potential of these products, especially in the exports market.
In a press conference by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI), the Philippine Bamboo Foundation said they would ask the government to allocate P2 billion out of the P2.7 billion previously allotted to the industry.
The Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines also urged the government to return to their P200-million annual budget allocation way back in 2012 from the current P40 million.
Both groups said providing more budget will go a long way in helping the two local industries.
In the case of the seaweed industry, Jimbo Pedrosa III, chairman of Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines, said the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of carrageenan, made of seaweed used in different applications from food to cosmetics and medicines.
Pedrosa said the Philippines is second only to China as seaweeds producer but global buyers prefer the Philippine produce because of the quality, especially for carrageenan.
In 2018, the industry exported $191 million with budgetary support of P138 million. Exports went up to $221. 316 million in 2019 with higher government funding of P198 million. Exports went down to $175.6 million 2020 as the funding was drastically cut to P59.2 million. Last year, exports reached $209.6 million with a budget allocation of P43 million.
The current global seaweed industry is worth $6 billion and consumption is forecasted to increase by 30 to 50 percent. The Asia Pacific is the biggest market, absorbing approximately 60 percent of supplies of seaweed and hydrocolloids. Growth centers include South and Southeast Asia, Middle East, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe.
During a recent industry consultation, industry players were apprised of shortage in raw dried seaweed (RDS) triggering a 200 percent in prices to P170 to P200 per kilo. “That is a good problem,” he said.
The global market, however, has been impacted by climate change and the pandemic due to supply chain issues.
The industry expects exports growth potential of $500 million with timely government intervention.
Based on their presentation, the industry needs to counter a disinformation campaign in the US about the safety of carrageenan and to delist the product as acceptable ingredient for US organic products. Such possible delisting could imperil the 52 percent Philippines market share or equivalent to $40 million in the US carrageenan market.
There is also a need to promote seaweed farming in coastal areas and budget allocation of from the local government unit internal revenue allocation.
The industry also calls for the establishment of institutional support, seaweed laboratories, and technical training to maximize yields and uses.
On the bamboo industry, Edgardo C. Manda, president of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation, said the requested P2 billion budget should be divided among 13 regions for planting materials and to develop commercial bamboo plantations.
Data from the Kilusang 5K (Kawayan: Kalikasan. Kabuhayan. Kaunlaran. Kinabukasan.) also showed that the Philippines is the fifth largest bamboo and rattan product exporter in the world having grown 62 bamboo specie, including 21 endemic.
Declared by the Department of Agriculture as a high value crop in 2020, the industry generated P233 million worth of investments in that same year.
The industry cited bamboos myriad uses, profitability, renewable, fast growing, lots technologies available, and environment-friendly.
As of Dec. 2019, there were total of 2,519 bamboo enterprises in the country as raw material suppliers for bamboo huts and cottages, bamboo mats, handicraft and furniture.
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