Seaweed is being cultivated for its carrageenan content. Carrageenan is useful to processing and manufacturing industries as fat substitute, extender, stabilizer, binder, emulsifier, etc.
The most common types of seaweed being cultured in a tropical country like the Philippines are the Eucheuma species (E. cottoni and E. spinosum). Through special chemical processes, carrageenan can be extracted from these seaweed species.
One hectare of sea farm produces 1.5 metric tons of Eucheuma seaweed every month. It takes three months to harvest a good seaweed crop. In good time (ideal weather, market, and others), the monthly average production ranges from 5 to 7 metric ton per hectare.
Good seedling, clean coastal water and typhoon free areas make a good Eucheuma farm. The Philippines is supplying 80 percent of the total raw material requirements of international processors for carrageenan production. Only 20percent is being sourced from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Seaweed farming contributes to the substantial regeneration and rehabilitation of the seas where the seaweed farms are located. With seaweed farming, ocean floors which are mostly barren are converted into plantations making the sea alive and productive.
The practice of seaweed farmers cleaning the plantation regularly of foreign materials and debris and guarding the plantation closely to ward off trespassers such as dynamite fisherman or cyanide sprayers and other shell collectors contribute in assuring ecological stability and sustainable productivity of other marine population.
Throughout the years, the industry has evolved into a profitable export business. Processing centers for carrageenan had been developed to supply the requirement of the international market. Top importers of carrageenan were France, United Kingdom, North Ireland, United States, Australia and Denmark.