Women's leadership in Indonesia’s modern seaweed processing industry
31 March 2023 Ita Sualia and Boedi Julianto
Indonesia is a major player in the global seaweed industry, producing and exporting both raw and processed seaweed products. According to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) in 2021, Indonesia produced an estimated 9.05 million tons of seaweed (live weight), making it among the world's largest seaweed producers. The country's seaweed industry is valued at over USD 1 billion, with exports of processed seaweed products such as carrageenan and agar-agar accounting for a significant portion of the industry's revenue. Indonesia is ranked 7th globally for agar-agar exporters and 6th for carrageenan exporters.
Women play a crucial role in the seaweed value chain, from farming and harvesting to processing and marketing. In many Indonesian coastal communities, women are the primary seaweed farmers, responsible for tending to the crops and ensuring their growth and quality. Women are also involved in processing seaweed, including drying, sorting, and packing the raw material for sale. In addition, women are often the main market vendors, selling seaweed products in local and regional markets. Despite their significant contribution to the seaweed value chain, women often face numerous challenges, such as limited access to resources and markets, unequal pay, and lack of representation in decision-making processes.
This article showcases the crucial role of women in seaweed farming and highlights woman’s leadership in the modern seaweed processing industry, such as Jane Tandra, the Sales Manager of Cahaya Cemerlang, one of the pioneers in seaweed processing established in 1969 specializing in semi-refined carrageenan (SRC) and refined carrageenan (RC) production. The company is a member of the Industrial Seaweed Association (ASTRULI), which collaborated with the UNIDO SMARTFish project (2014-2019) and currently with the UNIDO Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP, 2019-2023) to promote sustainable seaweed production and processing in Indonesia, as well as to showcase Indonesia's Seaweed brand.
The increasing importance of digital platforms for marketing and networking has led Jane to shift her company's focus towards digital promotion and participation in development programs. Recently, Jane has been actively participating in international exhibitions to promote Indonesian seaweed products and the UNIDO-supported brand, as well as engaging in national and international stakeholder dialogues in the seaweed business.
As a female leader in the seaweed industry, Jane sees the seaweed processing industry as a space for both men and women to excel. Despite the challenges of balancing family life, female leaders within the seaweed industry work with enthusiasm and dedication. Jane firmly believes that with the right training and opportunity, women can excel in the seaweed industry. With over ten years of experience, dedication, and continuous learning, Jane has gained the trust and confidence of both internal and external stakeholders to lead the business, proving that an individual's quality and performance outweigh gender considerations. Today, Jane continues to explore new innovation related to raw material supply and the development of new seaweed products, which can provide more employment opportunities for women in the seaweed industry.
* The Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP) is a global initiative to strengthen the export competitiveness of twelve partner countries, supported by Switzerland through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).