With increasing global demand for seaweed and derivative products including carrageenan, Malaysia has identified seaweed cultivation as a key sector in its Tenth Malaysian Plan, with the aim of increasing seaweed production and bringing economic benefits to coastal communities. After several years of growth however, since 2013 seaweed production has declined. Malaysia’s research and development has developed a strong understanding of the biological and macroeconomic aspects of seaweed cultivation, but research has focused less on socio-economic aspects of the carrageenan value chain, including its labour force. Previous studies have provided insights into the contribution of migrants to seaweed production in Malaysia. To further understand the constraints faced by seaweed farmers’ and examine why seaweed production is currently declining, this study uses an intersectional lens to document farmers’ experiences based on their citizenship status and the impacts their status has on seaweed production. It relies on a mixed-methods analysis of key informant interviews, questionnaire surveys and document analysis, as well as on the conceptual framework of VCA-New Institutional Environment-Structure (NIES). Findings suggest that migrants have a significant role in upstream activities, contributing substantially to seaweed cultivation, yet, they face a number of legal, financial and institutional constraints that restrict their productivity and participation in marketing activities. To recognise and support migrant seaweed farmers would not only improve the accuracy of official statistics, it would also support policymakers to strengthen the seaweed industry through adequate regulations and tailored incentives.
- Value chain
- Seaweed farming