The seaweed can be sold by the farmer at different stages. In some sectors the farmer would also have its own processing and brand and would sell directly to consumers. In others, the (usually raw dried) seaweed will go through the hands of more traders before it will be processed and reach the final customers.
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Point of Sales
For smallholder farmers the point of sale is often the farmer’s house or the seaweed drying platform (if it is not the same as the house). Here, the dried seaweed is packed in nylon sacks (those are the same across all three countries) from which they are sold. The weight of the bags varies. Farmers don’t usually have a scale, but the local collector would bring one or weigh the sacks at his warehouse. The entire transaction is often based on trust.
On some occasions, the seaweed is sold fresh to other farmers as seed stocks or directly for human consumption (in the form of fresh seaweed salad for instance). This is only true for K. striatus and E. denticulatum. K. malesianus is another species that is commonly enjoyed as a ‘sea vegetable’ , due to its softer texture. However, it is less commonly farmed. K. alvarezii is not marketed or sold as a sea vegetable.
If the farmer doesn’t have any outstanding loans or commitments with a local collector, he can sell to anyone. Remote locations will typically have one or very few local collectors or aggregators, since the logistics to the nearest larger port can be complex. In established seaweed communities, there are different buyers. However the sales process is quite informal and based on existing relationships, so farmers tend to only sell to a maximum of three to four different collectors.
In most cases, the local collector or aggregator wouldn’t conduct quality tests until the seaweed reaches his warehouse. Moisture content is the most important quality parameter for Eucheumatoids and is visually estimated at the farm and trader level. Farmers and traders also evaluate the moisture content by touch and feel of the seaweed. Stickiness is the typical indicator. The stickier the seaweed, the higher the moisture content. Normal moisture content at farm level can be up to 50%. The collector will sun dry it further to reach 35 to 38% moisture content.
Other quality criteria are the percentage of impurities and sand or salt content. All of these factors are estimated visually. Recently, local collectors are buying seaweed in any condition, even if the moisture content is high, because supplies are short and competition is fierce. They will then dry the seaweed again and mix the seaweed before selling it to local traders, exporters or directly to processing facilities.
A laboratory moisture content test would measure the weight lost by wet seaweed during the desiccation process in a drying oven. This usually takes place at the domestic processing facility or the export warehouse before the seaweed is sent abroad. There are official standards for exporting seaweed. These parameters have been set by the carrageenan industry which is the main market for Eucheumatoids.
Regional aggregation of seaweed
The supply chain overview below shows the most common way Eucheumatoids are traded today. To learn more about the uses for this seaweed and different actors, visit our Global Production Overview page for Eucheumatoids.