Citation Nor A, Gray TS, Caldwell GS & Stead SM (2019) A value chain analysis of Malaysia's seaweed industry. Journal of Applied Phycology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10811-019-02004-3
Abstract A global shortfall in protein supply from capture fisheries has motivated the Malaysian government to revise its aquaculture strategy, focusing on three commodities: seaweed, fish and marine shrimp. However, the performance of the Malaysian aquaculture sector, particularly seaweed production, is poorly documented. This is the first empirical study to undertake a value chain analysis (VCA) of the Malaysian seaweed sector using stakeholder perceptions and secondary data that encompass members of seaweed farming cooperatives (the Semporna Area Farmers’ Association and the governments’ flagship Seaweed Cluster Project). Fieldwork was conducted between April and June 2015 among seaweed stakeholders involved in the value chain using a mixed methods approach—in-depth interviews with key informants, focus group discussions, household surveys, personal observation and secondary data. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from both upstream (seaweed farming, marketing structure and the Malaysian Good Aquaculture Practices [MyGAP] certification programme) and downstream (seaweed processing) activities involving farmers, intermediaries/middlemen (buyers), processors and officials. Kappaphycus spp. was sold in two forms: (1) dried seaweed to be used as raw materials in carrageenan processing (approximately 90% of total harvest) and (2) fresh seaweed to be used as a source of seedlings (approximately 10% of total harvest). The value chain ended with the carrageenan form, which is exported to international markets. The price of dried seaweed varied according to a combination of seaweed quality, the strength of farmer’s relationships with intermediaries and processors and in response to demand from the carrageenan industry. The prices obtained by Malaysian farmers for dried seaweed and carrageenan remained low, US$ 0.60 and US$ 4.43 per kg, respectively, despite efforts by the government to enhance the value chain by imposing seaweed standards (via MyGAP) for farm management, dried seaweed and semi-refined carrageenan. The VCA was a useful tool to identify and map the market, with the results providing a better understanding of the seaweed sector, which could be helpful in supporting further aquaculture development in Malaysia.