East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur/NTT) has long been recognised as one of the major seaweed producing provinces in Indonesia. With its own uniqueness, the province is well suited for the development of quality seaweed production due to less polluted water, adequate sunlight, sea currents, pressure and water quality and salinity that suit the biological needs and growth of seaweed. In 2013, the province was able to produce 1,966.2 ton of Raw Dried Seaweed/RDS (Statistic Book of Fishery, 2014).
Contrary to the ever-increasing opportunities and demand of seaweed from global industry, some areas of seaweed production centres in NTT are experiencing significant production volume depreciation for the past 10 years. The decrease in production mainly occurred in part of NTT Province, especially Flores area and its surroundings.
Our study prior to the project implementation informs us a number of problems hindering seaweed cultivation in Flores. The main one is that farmers are experiencing difficulties in obtaining seeds. Interviewed farmers reported that before 2013 farmers had never experienced this problem as each farmer would reserve some of the crops for the next planting period. But since mid-2013 seeds are scarce and at the beginning of 2017 there was no stock at all. This is linked to the disappearance of seaweed buyers in the region. Since mid-2012 farmers no longer cultivated seaweed on a large scale as they did before.
The large-scale farms are pilot programmes and projects from the district and provincial governments as an effort to revive seaweed cultivation in Flores. It is suspected that due to its dependency to fiscal year policy, most of these government projects have failed. Almost all government project activities were carried out from July to August, a period that according to the farmers is a 'production-resting phase'. This time of the year the change in the sea current and temperature can trigger the ice-ice disease. This in combination with strong currents and big waves as a result of strong winds, making this season prone to crop failures.
Other problems are related to processing and marketing. After 2013, there was no large-scale cultivation in Sikka and Flores Timur. Farmers generally sell seaweed that has been dried for two to three days with water content of 38%-40%. Farmers sell directly to local collectors without any previous cleaning. Both in Sikka and Flores Timur districts, the collectors come to the farmers to conduct direct transactions, at a price set by the collectors ranging from Rp. 7,000-Rp. 7,500 per kg in 2013. Farmers are also not informed of seaweed market price fluctuation, either at exporter or processing factory level.