Seaweed Market is Down, But It’s Still a Great Crop

Seaweed is cultivated and sold as a major cash crop in Indonesia, I learned tonight. That’s because certain types of seaweed are dried, ground up, and gives up a substance called carageenan, a common ingredient used to thicken many food products. There has been tumult in the seaweed market recently, as the price has dropped from a high of 18,000 rupiah to just 10,000 today. The WSJ had the story on the front page.

Fishermen who have given up making a living fishing are now planting sprigs of seaweed on rope suspended into the coastal ocean and in 45 days, harvesting a catch that is easy to sell, and profitable. It has made life for many poor people much better.

But like many other markets, things go up and down. Now prices are going down and the fishermen/farmers have to rethink things like a trip to Mecca, or a new motorbike. Some have speculated that a Chinese ingredient maker was trying to force his competition to go out of business.