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174.     From this general review of likely future trends in the seaweed industry a number of broad perspectives emerge. On the side of demand, there are two rather distinct markets - one, of considerably the greatest present value, for edible seaweeds, heavily concentrated in Japan and other parts of the east and likely to remain so; the other, of lesser total value but of greater international significance, for seaweed colloids with a wide range of applications. There are also smaller, less dynamic markets for seaweeds, such as fertilizers, animal feeds and other more specialized uses.

175.     Each of these markets creates specific demands for particular seaweed species or groups of species, demands which in relation to individual weed resources are largely non-competitive. One cannot, for example, derive agar from brown seaweeds, “nori” cannot be prepared from Gelidium.

176.     On the supply side, some of the resources traditionally used for these specific end-products are in danger of overexploitation or, particularly in the more economically developed parts of the world, are becoming increasingly difficult and costly to harvest. At the same time, many of the world's greatest untapped reserves of algae are located in rather inaccessible or expensively remote areas. The cultivation of raw materials, both for edible and industrialized products, is thus likely to become of increasing importance, especially1 in the case of those species where farming techniques can produce good crops of high quality material yielding high monetary values for unit effort.2

1 Druehl (1972)

2 One might note, however, from the point of view of the processor, the observation by Doty and Alvarez (1975) that a lengthy period of adjustment in respect of prices and production is likely before prices of farmed materials become stable, and that, as a hedge against trends in a single country, processors may encourage seaweed farming in several economically and politically contrasting countries

177.     For those countries with already well established seaweed industries, faced for the most part with rising costs of collection, the major single problem, in addition to the development of new resources and new products, if the need to arrest the rise in raw material costs by means of improved harvesting methods or access to cheaper supplies. To the developing nations of the world which hitherto have not fully utilized their resources of seaweed, this situation offers a number of economically and socially attractive opportunities.

178.     Neglected or lightly exploited algal resources, often in localities suffering from underemployment and low levels of income, might become the basis for a simple but remunerative labour-intensive industry which (depending upon the species present) could produce dried weeds or weed concentrates for export, or algaic fertilizer or animal feed for domestic use. Should the resources be of sufficient and assured abundance, the subsequent establishment of phycocolloid plants might eventually be considered economic, the end-products again being sold on either the export or domestic market. Under certain conditions there may be opportunities for the associated development of seaweed cultivation in addition to the harvesting of naturally occurring stocks. Attention might also be given to the possible benefits of initiating such activities through joint-venture or technical cooperation arrangements with foreign enterprises already well experienced in the techniques of growing, collecting and processing seaweeds. At the same time, considerable care is advisable in the negotiation of such arrangements as, although they could give access to the increasingly technical skills involved in weed cultivation, processing and, above all, phycocolloid marketing, there are nevertheless inherent disadvantages in being tied too closely to an individual manufacturer. However, the successful establishment of one or more of the varied aspects of seaweed commercialization in, for example, Morocco, Chile, Argentina and The Philippines, indicates the overall socio-economic potentials of such developments.

179.     Notwithstanding the cyclical dip experienced in the last two or three years, the seaweed industry today may well be on the threshold of an expansion which could exceed even the rapid growth experienced in recent decades. A part of this prospective further growth in demand for seaweed and seaweed products will be attributable to rising standards of living in presently less economically advanced countries of the world. There clearly are opportunities for such countries not only to participate in the domestic application of these products but also to play a fuller role, to their economic and social benefit, in the supply of the materials, whether raw or processed, which together represent this complex, dynamic and increasingly valuable section of the world's marine fisheries.

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