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Fresh Kombu in Salt (Laminaria ochroleuca) Photo: La Patrona

The EC will promote the seaweed industry, a gold mine for Spanish companies

Click on the flag for more information about Spain SPAIN
Monday, January 18, 2021, 10:00 (GMT + 9)

Spanish companies seek to open a market in the algae industry applied to sectors such as energy, food or the cosmetic industry, through the plan launched by the European Commission (EC) to contribute with this activity to post-coronavirus economic reconstruction. , Brussels has launched a roadmap, with the launch of a public consultation, to promote a strong and sustainable seaweed sector as a source of income.

Spanish companies seek to open a market in the algae industry applied to sectors such as energy, food or the cosmetic industry, through the plan launched by the European Commission (EC) to contribute with this activity to post-coronavirus economic reconstruction.

Foto: gentileza AlgaEnery

Brussels has launched a roadmap, with the launch of a public consultation, to promote a strong and sustainable seaweed sector as a source of income, valuable food raw material and in line with its European Green Deal.

The European Union (EU) -with 4,000 workers and 376 companies in the sector- occupies a discreet position in the world market, although in Spain there are firms dedicated to its fishing or production that advance in exports.

In Spain, about 8,000 tons are collected for marketing as fertilizer, food or other purposes and there is a timid presence of companies dedicated to its cultivation (20 tons), 83% in Andalusia and 17% in Galicia, according to data from the employer's association of Apromar aquaculture corresponding to 2019.

Foto: gentileza Algas La Patrona

China (18.5 million tons), Indonesia (9.3 million) and South Korea (1.7 million) lead the world in seaweed farming, while Chile occupies the first place in banquettes or collection from the beach ( 247,000 tonnes), followed by China (183,000 tonnes) and Norway (169,000 tonnes) according to Apromar.

Apromar's managing director, Javier Ojeda, told Efe that the sector in Spain has strengths such as quality, contact with research centers and proximity to haute cuisine.

On the contrary, he has highlighted as drawbacks the competition of imports and the complexity of the administrative procedures to obtain concessions for the occupation of the maritime space, for entrepreneurs who want to dedicate themselves to their breeding.

INNOVATION AFTER THE PANDEMIC

"Our sector will be one of the few that will come out of the crisis strengthened halfway through the crisis, which has accelerated trends such as sustainability, innovation, biotechnology or health through the diet with which microalgae fit," he stressed to Efe the general director of AlgaEnergy, Carlos Rodríguez-Villa.

AlgaEnergy, which has 100 employees around the world, is dedicated since 2007 to the commercialization of microalgae and derivatives for use in agriculture, nutrition, cosmetics, aquaculture, bioenergy or pharmacy.

Rodríguez-Villa has remarked that Spain has a privileged position in this biotechnological sector, due to the scientific and technological level and that Europe has competitive advantages "to lead this development.

In the last two years, the firm has opened subsidiaries in Japan, Italy, France, the United States, Mexico, India, Turkey, Australia and Brazil and is already present in 20 markets.

FROM GALICIA TO EUROPEAN ECOLOGICAL STORES

In the Galician Ría de Arosa, in Pontevedra, the company La Patrona, formed by women, sells algae collected by hand by fishermen for sale in fishmongers or organic stores, especially in the national market, but also has clients in Switzerland, France or Germany.

Its founder, Cristina García, has pointed out to Efe that, although Spanish consumers have not noticed, they can find seaweed in a large part of the distribution chains or even in nautical bookstore stores.

She defends consumption as sea vegetables, whether in Galician empanada, soup or tortilla, although La Patrona also has a maritime concession under development to raise algae for food, feed or additives in Asturias.

It is a source of local employment, we need boats, divers and it also offers income to the fishermen who collect, adds García, who plans actions to promote menus with the hotel industry in the area.



Both AlgaEnergy and La Patrona have participated in programs with support from the EU.

Another example is the Photofuel project, also funded by European funds, which developed biocatalyst fuels for vehicles based on genetically modified algae.

Author: Mercedes Salas / COPE / Agencia EFE


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