The seaweed can be sold by the farmer at different stages (see supply chain overview below). In some cases the farmer has his or her own processing and brand and sells directly to consumers. In others, the (usually raw dried) seaweed will go through the hands of more traders before it is processed and reaches the final customers.
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Deployment and harvest time plays a significant role in seaweed quality and the final price. The wet weight to dry weight ratios can change significantly from month to month.
In South Korea, farmers sell Undaria directly to processors. For the domestic market, the main buyers are processing factories for drying and salt preservation. Processed products are sold to general consumers in wholesale markets, large-scale markets and traditional markets. 60% of the harvested Undaria in South Korea is sold fresh to neighbouring abalone farms as feed.
In the Sanriku region of Japan, all blanched and salted Undaria, and dried Undaria products are sold through the auction by JF Zengyoren (National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations). An inspector visually checks and grades the products beforehand according to the quality, colour, smell and shape. The official auction period was February 17 until May 10 in 2022 and an electric bidding system has recently been adopted. The quality of Undaria differs according to the strains and cultivation condition. It is said that Sanriku Undaria contains higher dietary fibre and has a higher breaking strength, giving it a pleasant firmness.
In China, many of the large integrated companies in the North have their own brands and sell directly to retailers and consumer markets. According to industry insiders, the sale price of wakame was not ideal for the last few years and sometimes fell below production costs. (Production costs used to be about USD 0.70 USD per kg but have been rising dramatically in recent years as wages, seed materials and salt have become more costly. With increasing costs, Dalian Undaria reached a record high in 2022. Increasing domestic demand is a huge contributing factor for rising prices for Undaria. During the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, Undaria hit the online market, sparking huge domestic demand.