Posted on March 3, 2020 by Sustainable Food News

State’s edible seaweed processors ‘split’ over role of organics

New report by Island Institute concludes 'organic' is not requirement for success of Maine's farmed edible seaweed sector

Maine edible seaweed processors are “split” regarding the role of organic in their industry’s product offerings. products’ strategic role in their product offerings.

That’s according to a new report by the Island Institute, a Rockland, Maine-based nonprofit, that describes the growth potential of the edible seaweed market in Maine, a major farmed seaweed producing state, over the next 15 years.

“At this time, organic Maine farmed edible seaweed products are viewed as a potential differentiator, but not a requirement, for success,” said the new Edible Seaweed Market Analysis.

Among the concerns over organic by Maine edible seaweed processors are that “ocean-based products cannot truly be labeled organic due to the uncontrollable nature of open water contents and that the organic licensing requirements are not justified given the incremental costs and operational restrictions associated with organic labeling,” said the report.

Another potentially limiting factor is the fact that organic seeds are about 50-100 percent more expensive than nonorganic “due to a longer growing cycle and other organic product requirements,” said the report.

“The other primary farmed seaweed producing state, Alaska, has relatively rigid organic certification requirements and the harvesters/processors have not pursued organic product options to date,” said the report. “Harvesters and processors need to assess the role of organic in their growth strategies, including evaluating the cost implications relative to the market potential, to make their own determinations regarding evolving to an organic product positioning.”

“Growers of sugar/skinny kelp can expect to receive approximately $0.40 – $0.70 per wet pound for their harvest. Growers that complete the first stage processing to dry the seaweed can expect to receive $6 – $8 per dried pound. Note: it typically requires approximately 10 pounds of wet seaweed to yield one dry pound,” said the report. “Organic products can achieve a 30 percent – 50 percent premium, although pricing varies and not all processors utilize organic products.”

The report said while more than 95 percent of edible seaweed products sold in the U.S. are imported, Maine’s farmed edible seaweed production will grow an average of 12 percent to 15 percent annually over the next decade and is expected to more than double seaweed production by 2025.

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