Economies

More than just sushi: Indonesia, the emerging seaweed nation

Seaweed can boost the economy and improve the livelihood of coastal communities. Indonesia is already the largest seaweed producer in the world. Yet, the vast majority of red seaweed is not processed or refined in the country. Many opportunities to make seaweed strategic to Indonesia's economy.

In the small coastal village of Pangkep District, South Sulawesi, seaweed farming has become a profitable business.

Of all fisheries and aquaculture activities, seaweed contributes the highest in household income.

Communities can earn an average of US$3,000 to $4,000 a year.

In fact, farming seaweed can far exceed income in fishing, which is helping turn more to seaweed farming as a full-time occupation. 

As an archipelagic nation, Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands. Its coastline is the second-longest in the world after Canada.

Its marine area spans 1792 million hectares, three times the size of its landmass.

The potential production of fisheries and aquaculture is enormous.

It is about 100 million tons per year, compared to the current output of 20 million tons per year. (Subjakto S, 2019) 

Seaweed can boost the economy and improve the livelihood of coastal communities. Indonesia is already the largest seaweed producer in the world.

It accounts for more than a third of global seaweed production.

In 2014, its exports were A$300 million, with production increasing by about 30% per year. 

Seaweed farming is a growth industry in South Sulawesi.

According to Deloitte, the province alone contributes 18% of global red seaweed production and supports the livelihoods of 40,000 households.

Yet, the vast majority of red seaweed is not processed or refined in South Sulawesi.

It is instead sent elsewhere for processing, limiting Indonesia’s role in the seaweed global value chain and leaving farmers impoverished. 

Recognising its potential, the national government has made seaweed strategic to its economy.

This backgrounder looks at seaweed in Indonesia. 

It explores Indonesia’s seaweed processing, supply chain, key actors and current directions.

Source: Seaweed Nation: Indonesia’s new growth sector – Australia-Indonesia Centre

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