India is aiming to increase seaweed production in the country to 11.5 lakh tonnes from the current production levels of 2,500 tonnes in the next five years. This can be achieved by using just 1 per cent of its 8,000-kilometre-long coastline, said Fisheries Secretary Rajiv Ranjan on Monday.

Globally, seaweed production is $12-15 and is expected to grow to $26 billion by 2025. Currently, China and Indonesia have 80 per cent of the market share. “Even if India aims only for the low-hanging fruits in the sector, it can easily achieve the target itset. Currently, seaweed production in India is primarily confined to the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay in Tamil Nadu,” Ranjan said at a curtain raiser event here for an international webinar on entrepreneurship development on seaweed business to be held later this week.

PM Matsya Sampada Yojana

Ranjan sad that promotion of seaweed cultivation, which requires little capital investment, is going to be one major component of the ₹20,000-crore PM Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY). The government has earmarked ₹640 crore for developing seaweed industry in country.

The webinar, to be organised by the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), together with Department of Fisheries, will deliberate on how fisherwomen cooperatives can be created for encouraging seaweed cultivation at a large scale across several coastal States in the country, said NCDC’s Managing Director, Sundeep Nayak.

Seaweeds grow abundantly along the Tamil Nadu and Gujarat coasts and around Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands. There are also rich seaweed beds around Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Goa, Karwar, Varkala, Vizhinjam, Pulicat and Chilka. Out of approximately 700 species of marine algae found in both inter-tidal and deep water regions of the Indian coast, nearly 60 species are commercially important.

Domestic production

The seaweed industry in India is mainly a cottage industry and is based only on the natural stock of agar-yielding red seaweeds, such as Gelidiella acerosa and Gracilaria edulis , and algin yielding brown seaweeds species such as Sargassum and Tubineria .

Currently most of the seaweed produced in India is used for plant growth factor, which reduces the requirement of fertilisers by nearly 13 per cent, Ranjan said. They are also used in a variety of industries such as pharmaceuticals, neutraceuticals, food and cosmetics. Indian firms are currently importing these seaweed-derived materials from other countries, he said.

In contrast to other forms of aquaculture, seaweed farming has minimum capital and technological requirements and provides important economic opportunities to marginal coastal communities with limited livelihood options.