Seaweed Nation: Indonesia’s new growth sector
The AIC’s PAIR researchers recently visited the small coastal village of Pitue, in Pangkajene dan Kepulauan (Pangkep) district, South Sulawesi. Seaweed farming has become a key business for communities here, though the local industry needs to further develop if it is to lift more people out of poverty.
Studies suggest the industry has the potential to provide much higher household incomes than fishing, but opportunities are limited by a lack of downstream processing and, for many, imbalanced access to the industry (La Ode et al.)
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 cent per year. (Sedayu, B.B., 2018)
Seaweed farming is a growth industry in South Sulawesi. According to Deloitte, the province alone contributes 18 per cent 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.