Department of Agriculture with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the municipal agriculture office of Sofronio Española provide hands on training for Halal seaweed production and processing |Photo from DA RFO MIMAROPA Facebook page

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is helping local seaweed farmers to produce “halal-certified” products for the local market.

Aquaculturist II Ma. Elena Basaya, one of the speakers and trainers, said Monday, August 9, that producing products from growers is now possible due to the “matured technology” of seaweed production. 

“Ang sinasabi ng taga-DA (Department of Agricuture) ay pino-promote na natin ngayon ang halal food, ang pinaka-main target natin na market ay brothers and sisters natin na Muslim. Although, ‘yong Christians ay ina-accept na rin ang halal food. Sa nakikita ko naman, malaki ang potential ng market ng halal food lalo na rin dito sa Puerto,” she said.

She said that it could also help to increase the number of halal-accredited restaurants in the local market

The training on halal seaweed production and processing in Sofronio Española was in preparation if the community would like to venture in producing products and be Halal accredited. The training was initiated by the DA MIMAROPA and the local government unit of Sofronio Española which was participated mostly by Muslim individuals, she said.

The DA MIMAROPA, on its post, stated that the training conducted on August 4 and 5 aimed to teach participants on the proper choice of spices, the process of technology, actual operation, continuous monitoring and guidance to their personnel, good manufacturing processes, product packaging, and labeling of finish products.

The participants were trained on how to earn from producing a different product such as seaweed noodles, cookies, and pickles to earn for their families. She added that some of them were already formed an association.

“Medyo mahaba-haba pa na proseso, as long as hindi lang bibitaw ‘yong mga tao or organization na sumusuporta sa grupo ng farmers. Lagi namin sinasabi na kapag sinabing Halal, may criteria rin ang grupo ng Halal, meron din sila standards na kailangan mo masunod,” she said.

Aside from assisting the community through training and processing to produce different products out of harvested seaweed, farmers must also ensure that the process of planting is organic to comply with the Halal requirement.

She stressed that farmers should not be tempted to try using fertilizer at their seaweed farms if their goal is to be accredited under Halal. She added that the process for establishing the products and attaining the accreditation could be tedious but it is possible if the trainees will give focus on it.

“Sa part namin, alam naman din namin na ang ibang farmers ay gumagamit ng fertilizer sa seaweed farming. Although meron tayong ordinansa diyan sa province at city na bawal talaga gumamit ng fertilizer sa pagfa-farm ng seaweed. Sabi naman ng participants na ang Sofronio Española daw, ‘yong grupo na na-train namin as per recommended din ng LGU ay hindi raw sila gumagamit ng fertilizer,” she said.

She said that aside from BFAR, other agencies are also assisting in helping communities with the technology of seaweed production like the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The participants were associations of seaweed growers from the barangays of Isumbo and Panitian. She encouraged the trainees to continue practicing the processes of producing products even with alternative materials available in their households. She also recommended that having a noodle machine will help them to produce a seaweed noodle if they want to venture into it. 

“Kasi kung hindi mo i-practice, kahit anong training, wala rin. Ang tinuro namin sa kanila, na parang kung anong available diyan sa bahay niyo, pwede mo siya magamit,” she said.

Aside from Basaya, senior aquaculturist Lea Dagot also served as a resource speaker for the training with the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) headed by Aristotle Supe.

Supe said that they can’t force growers to immediately shift to organic farming of seaweed but they are exerting effort to show some disadvantages of relying on it especially if they want to saturate the Muslim market.

“Sa seaweeds ay may mga naibibigay na tulong sa kanila pero hindi Halal. Ang Halal ay first time pa lang nag-conduct for Halal seaweeds. Ito ang value adding nila kasi once na ma-Halal ang kanilang mga produkto kasi marami rin byproducts na tinuro rin ang BFAR like noodles at iba pang products,” he said.

The seaweed growers could earn more by value-adding and not just directly selling those dried seaweeds from their farms.

He said that market linkages are also important to help the continuous production of growers. It could also encourage more growers to join in producing products and be accredited under Halal certification.

“Kapag napaganda na, may market, tingin ko malaking bagay na lalaki ang kita nila sa byproducts na gagawin nila,” he added.