Financial lender signs on to seaweed-processing project in Tanzania

Rows of seaweed on a seaweed farm on the island of Zanzibar
Rows of seaweed on a seaweed farm on the island of Zanzibar | Photo courtesy of Ventura/Shutterstock
2 Min

Zanzibar, Tanzania-based seafood firm Zanzibar Seaweed Company (ZASCO) recently signed an agreement with a financial lender to back the expansion of seaweed-processing infrastructure in the region.

The agreement will see NMB Bank extend loans to small-scale seaweed farmers who are affiliated with ZASCO in Zanzibar, a self-governed, semi-autonomous archipelagic province of Tanzania off the east coast of Africa.

The bank will also offer the seaweed farmers financial literacy programs, as well as technical training, to ensure they steadily improve their seaweed output to meet anticipated the fulfillment requirements of a ZASCO-headed seaweed-processing factory currently under construction.

ZASCO, which is 50 percent-owned by the Zanzibar Social Security Fund, is constructing the TZS 8 billion (USD 3 million, EUR 2.9 million) factory on the island of Pemba, which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago. Among other objectives, the factory will mainly aim to extract carrageenan – often used in the food industry to thicken, emulsify, and preserve food and drinks – from the seaweed it processes.

“This will become not only the largest seaweed-processing plant in Tanzania but also across the entire African continent,” ZASCO Director General Masoud Rashid Mohammed said.

The factory will have the capacity to process over 30,000 metric tons (MT) of seaweed, produce 16,200 MT of carrageenan, and support the work of about 25,000 seaweed farmers annually.

ZASCO has also announced a partnership with Singapore-based Nutri-San, a biotechnology company specializing in animal feed solutions, for the development of the factory.

The company started buying raw seaweed from farmers during the 2022-2023 fiscal year for the new factory, which is slated to commence operations later in 2024.

The factory aligns with Tanzania's larger goals of exporting more seaweed and aquaculture products as a whole.

The value of Tanzania’s seaweed exports increased by 123 percent year over year for the 12 months ending September 2023, totaling USD 2.4 million (EUR 2.2 million) from USD 1.1 million (EUR 1 million) the year prior, according to the Bank of Tanzania.

International buyers also paid more for Tanzania’s seaweed exports year over year, shelling out USD 791 (EUR 730) per ton in September 2023, up from USD 525 (EUR 484.3) in September 2022.

Zanzibar Trade and Industrial Development Minister Omar Said Shabani said the price of Tanzania’s seaweed has continued to improve and has even overtaken cloves, the archipelago’s typical biggest foreign exchange earner.

“With ample investment, especially in value addition for seaweed, Zanzibar will be in position to get more foreign exchange,” Shabani said.

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