Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Abalone: A potential Mindanao industry

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 2, 2010) — The province of Misamis Oriental, among other Mindanao provinces, has the potential of growing abalone, an specialist with the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department said.

Vincent Encena II identified the other Mindanao provinces as potential areas for abalone farms as Surigao del Sur, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, particularly Tawi-Tawi and Sulu group of islands; Siargao Island, and Sarangani province, most particularly General Santos City.

Encena said that the abalone industry could flourish in Mindanao because its location is very suitable for growing tropical abalone, a high-value aquaculture product.

He said these potential abalone sites have available areas for sea-based farms and access to processors and major abalone markets.

Also, these areas are also rich in seaweeds, the staple feed to abalone.

The average abalone production capacity of the identified potential Mindanao areas range from 10 to 50 tons per year.

"Mindanao could potentially produce a lot of abalone due to favorable sites, weather, and availability of seaweeds," he said.

He said General Santos, where there are numerous tuna canning facilities, also has the potential for abalone growing and processing.

Canned abalone is one of the preferred product forms in the Chinese market, the biggest market for abalone in the world.

Considered a delicacy in Asia, the abalone is a single-shelled, herbivorous marine mollusk found under rocks and coral rubble and is known for its sweet, firm meat. The tropical abalone species that is found from southern Japan to northern Australia is the donkey's ear abalone, Haliotis asinina, locally known as "lapas" in Cebuano or "sobra-sobra" in Ilonggo.

Abalone may be sold for 750 pesos to 800 pesos per can in the local market, but it will fetch a higher price if exported, Encena said, adding that a container load of canned tuna is valued at US$40,000 but a container load of canned abalone would value at around US$390,000.

According to Encena, the Philippines was the top frozen abalone exporter to Hong Kong in 2006. Philippine abalone products are also exported to Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.

He said that the world’s abalone market is valued at US$1 billion.

Because of its huge market value in the export market and Mindanao’s potential for becoming to be the abalone export capital of the Philippines.

"Mindanao must conduct a more thorough assessment of sites with potential for abalone culture," he said, adding, that for Mindanao to harness its potential for abalone farms, commercial-scale abalone hatchery and commercial-scale abalone demo-farm must be established for prospective abalone sites in the region.

Aside from this, value-added products from abalone meat should also be studied, he added.

He also suggested for government to regulate harvesting of abalone to avoid overfishing, which is the main reason of the declining stock of wild tropical abalone in Philippine waters. (Bong Fabe)

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