Dar es Salaam. Seaweed is common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes and other water bodies.
The produce has become one of the highest commercial products for exports due to its mineral content in iodine, vitamins and calcium.
Zanzibar is the third producer of seaweed after the Philippines and Indonesia.
Zanzibar exports seaweed to Denmark, US, China, France and Belgium. Locally, there is a low demand for it in Dar es Salaam, Bukoba and Arusha.
Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster initiative secretary Rajab Ali Ameir told BusinessWeek during the 42nd Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair that seaweed was introduced in the Isles in 1986 from the Philippines.
“Two types of seaweed are grown. They are cottonji which has a high content of jelly and therefore expensive. The second type is spinosium whose jelly content is low and therefore less expensive,’ he said.
According to him, Zanzibar produces 15,000 tonnes of seaweed annually from about 24,000 farmers. A kilo of it is sold at Sh500-1,000.
Farmers established clusters that were later helped by the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) to add value. He noted that through Costech guidance, the clusters came up with different types of products including soap, jam, lotion, massage oil and even snacks.Unido gave equipment worth $80,000 for establishing small-scale industries to add value to seaweed.
The Zanzibar government is also in a process of establishing a semi-refined carrageenan plant that will be used to extract the product to produce gelatin that has been added value instead of being exported as raw material.
However, he noted, challenges were there. They include difficulties in packaging materials to attract buyers internationally.
The other challenge is the lack of seaweed innovation parks.
Meanwhile, Costech acting director general Amos Nungu said the commission had been striving to help the public solve socioeconomic challenges.