Sabah has aims to boost seaweed industry potential


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah may be the largest seaweed producer in the country, but it has yet to fully realise the massive potential of the multi-million ringgit industry.

State Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe said the downstream aspects of the sector particularly needed a boost, as local factories struggle to keep up with rising operating costs.

"I am prioritising the development of the downstream seaweed sector and would like to engage with local companies in the industry’s development," he said in a statement on Friday (June 28).

"We have potential in the east coast districts of Kunak and Semporna, which have an abundant supply of seaweed that we have yet to fully tap into.

"It’s imperative that we kickstart our seaweed industry and explore all possible avenues to develop it," he added.

During a visit to Kunak on Tuesday (June 25), Phoong learned firsthand how a once-thriving seaweed manufacturing facility was forced out of business.

The factory, under the company Lucky Frontier Sdn Bhd, had to cease operations in the wake of the Lahad Datu intrusion in 2014, among other reasons.

The company was looking to make a comeback but has found it challenging due to the skyrocketing costs for restarting operations.

Phoong was briefed by factory owners Edwin Kiung and David Kiung that the facility could previously handle up to 10 tonnes of seaweed daily, processing it into refined and semi-refined carrageenan.

Carrageenan was a natural ingredient derived from seaweed and was widely used in dairy products, cosmetics, and the medical field.

After several trade missions, Phoong said he learned there was a global demand for carrageenan powder.

"Revitalising this factory will allow us to meet that demand right from Sabah.

"Currently, local seaweed feedstock is exported in raw material form.

"It’s high time we take back control of our feedstock and manage the downstream production locally," he said.

Phoong said this aligns with Sabah's Blue Economy initiative championed by the Chief Minister, as it aligns perfectly with the broader goal of sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the state.

The Fisheries Department had in March announced that Sabah produced approximately 225,048 metric tonnes of seaweed valued at RM100mil last year, making it the main contributor to Malaysia’s seaweed production.

It added that seaweed cultivation in Sabah accounted for about 54% of national aquaculture production.

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