“People don’t eat seaweeds because they are not in the market, and seaweeds are not in the market because people don’t eat them.”
How do we create demand if there is no supply?
How do we forge supply if there is no demand?
Of course, the seaweed Gordian knot as expressed above does not explain every situation. For example, it does not explain why fisher communities in most countries of the world, excepting a few Asian ones, do not eat seaweeds although they are found oftentimes abundantly in their waters.
However, for most of the population of the world, who will get their seaweeds and aquatic plants, and products containing these from markets, there is a need to promote both production and consumption, establishing an adequate demand-supply relation as an essential part of making aquatic farming and the consumption of aquatic products ‘commonplace’.
We believe fuzzy logic iterative processes between supply and demand at multiple levels are the best and most manageable option to establish adequate demand-supply relations for seaweed and aquatic plants.
Multiple levels include work beginning with coastal and rural communities so that they not only farm to sell but also become consumers and goes up to national-, regional- and international-level marketing campaigns, in association with e.g. supermarket chains and health authorities/NGOs, in order to promote consumption of seaweed and aquatic plant products by the broader population in each country.
Some of the mechanisms for this, which we will implement, are:

Creating demand for tropical seaweeds and aquatic plants (beyond currently existing levels)

  • Identify existing uses/users (supply them with local production).
  • Create ‘easy’ demand (picking low-hanging fruits) on the part of businesses: restaurants (chefs), supermarkets, cosmetics companies, food caterers… and arrange to supply them.
  • Promote development of tasty and nutritious seaweed- and aquatic plant-containing products and adapted local recipes.
  • Build broad and long-lasting consumer demand by promoting awareness and knowledge in population (multimedia, marketing campaigns).
  • Work with coastal and rural communities that harvest/cultivate them so that they consume them.

Forging supply of tropical seaweeds and aquatic plants

  • Identify and quantify areas for production and potential of sustainable harvest from natural populations/beach landings.
  • Support existing seaweed and aquatic plant suppliers (businesses, natural harvesters, artisanal producers).
  • Support existing producers (e.g. of seaweeds for hydrocolloids) and establish pilot commercial-oriented cultivation trials.
  • Advance in value chains.
  • Scale-up and -out production as demand and production/value-chain experience grows.
  • Support with proper policies and regulations and research/capacity building.