Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Cultivation of seaweed as a major source of income for tens of thousands of Indonesian farmers is being intensified to improve their economy.

The Indonesian island resort of Bali was the first place where extensive commercial seaweed farming began about thirty years ago.

Since then the cultivation and processing of seaweeds has become a significant industry that provides an income to tens of thousands of people in coastal areas across the country.

Indonesia has several varieties of seaweed in abundance and their cultivation has the potential to improve the countrys economy, Ina Primiana Syinar, professor at Pajajaran Universitys Faculty of Economics stated.

"Compared to other aquaculture commodities, many different types of seaweed are produced each year in Indonesia, and therefore, the government should start utilizing such a commodity to improve the nations economy," Ina said here Tuesday.

Seaweed production for six consecutive years, from 2008 to 2013, ranked the highest in aquaculture commodities or outnumbered the production of shrimp, grouper, snapper, milk fish, carp, tilapia, and catfish, according to data furnished by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Seaweed production last year was recorded at 3.3 million tons, or six times more than the production of tilapia aquaculture commodity that is ranked second-highest in Indonesia, the data indicated.

The government should utilize its seaweed production potential by creating innovations in the seaweed trade, Ina remarked referring to the data.

"In addition to promoting trade, the government can process seaweed materials into food or cosmetics whose market value is greater than the exported raw materials," she added.

Indonesia has a strategic geographic location at the heart of Coral Triangle Zone, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Sharif C Sutardjo had said.

"As a tropical region, Indonesian waters have a seaweed germ plasm resource of no less than 555 types of Gracilaria, Gelidium, Eucheuma, Hypnea, Sargassum, and Turbinaria," the minister had said in his message to the International Seaweed Association in March last year.

The potential for aquaculture in Indonesia was very high, including areas for seaweed cultivation which was estimated at 1,110,900 hectares, so the opportunity to develop seaweed production and industry was enormous, Sharif had then remarked.

The government was supporting the development of the seaweed industry through its policies to increase the production of seaweed cultivation, up to 10 million tons in 2014, in a policy framework called seaweed industrialization, the minister said.

"Seaweed industrialization is an integrated activity between the management of cultivation, seed availability, socio-economic, post harvest management and capital to marketing," he noted.

Further, it was organized in an integrated manner based on industries to increase value added, efficiency and competitive production scale so that the implementation may involve many people, both government and private institutions, he added.

"The purpose of policy is not only to increase foreign exchange, but also to provide jobs and prosperity for seaweed farmers and to promote the seaweed cultivation enterprises for micro, small, and medium scale," he remarked.

Therefore, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries has established a certification body to help domestic businesses achieve national standards for a number of leading marine commodities including seaweeds.

"In order to support the implementation of the Indonesian National Standard, or SNI, the Directorate of Fishery Products Processing and Marketing has established a certification body for fishery products that is authorized to issue SNI certification," Head of the Directorate, Saut Hutagalung, said here last Thursday.

The Fishery Products Processing Unit for seaweed has received a Certificate of Eligibility Processing for its 48 dry seaweed storage units and 27 seaweed processing units, he explained.

The certified seaweed products compete with the best in the global markets, according to SNI.

"Currently, the worlds demand for seaweed products is growing, making this business more and more promising," Saut said.

In the light of this, the South Halmahera district administration in North Maluku province has been promoting seaweed cultivation to improve the income in coastal areas and small islands in the district.

Every year the administration allocates a budget to support seaweed cultivation, the public relation and protocol official of the district, Daud Jubaidi, said in Ternate recently.

He pointed out that the cultivation program has shown good results, with more people living in coastline areas and small islands taking to seaweed cultivation.

"People are interested in seaweed cultivation as it does not require much capital, and in addition, they can earn money within 45 days," Daud noted.

The marketing of seaweed products is satisfactory, as currently, a seaweed processing unit has been constructed in Ternate that accommodates seaweed from South Halmahera and other districts in North Maluku.

The district administration has been exploring the possibility of involving investors to improve seaweed cultivation and processing in order to raise the value-add, Daud said.

The potential for seaweed cultivation in South Halmahera is great, as 300 islands situated there are suitable for cultivation.

Other districts in North Maluku that produce seaweed are Ternate, Morotai Island, and Taliabu Island, with total production reaching to 30 thousand tons per year.

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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