SPINY LOBSTER: A Goldmine From The Sea

Small fishermen in Caraga region have found a goldmine from the sea, thanks to a four-year rural development program in the two Surigao provinces, two Agusans and Dinagat Island.

The Spiny Lobster
The Spiny Lobster

The goldmine from the sea is the Spiny Lobster known in science as Panulirus ornatus. And the Caraga farmers have the Philippine Cold Chain Project (PCCP) to thank for. It is a livelihood-enhancing project funded by the US Department of Agriculture and implemented by Winrock International.

The program which started in 2013 aims to enhance productivity and entrepreneurship among small farmers. The special targets include the promotion of production of vegetables and other high-value crops, livestock production and fisheries.

SPINY LOBSTER: A Goldmine From The Sea

In fisheries, the small fisherfolk have particularly found a goldmine in the Spiny Lobster which they grow in cages. This is a low-volume but high-value commodity, according to Jim Orprecio, deputy chief of party of PCCP.

It is low-volume because the fish farmer may take care of only 150 to 200 pieces in a six-square-meter cage at the edge of the sea. It is high-value because the 150 pieces when grown to 600 grams each can mean a big fortune to the small fisherman. Why? Because the current farmgate price is P2,300 per kilo. The 150 lobsters will weigh a total of 90 kilos after a culture period of nine months to one year and will fetch a total value of P207,000. No small peanuts for a small fisherman. After deducting the cost of production, there will still be a big profit left.

SPINY LOBSTER: A Goldmine From The Sea

Joselito Nobillos, Winrock’s aquaculturist, says that not many small fisherfolk could afford to grow lobster on their own because it needs some capital. For instance, the 50-gram fingerlings supplied by catchers from the wild cost more or less P500 each. So the 150 fingerlings would cost about P75,000 which most small fisherfolk don’t have.

Now, however, Winrock makes it possible for the small fisherman to start his 150-lobster project because he can borrow from the First Community Coop (FICCO), the loan guaranteed by PCCP. FICCO is a big Mindanao-based cooperative with 36 business centers and satellite offices in Mindanao. The farmer does not receive the loan in cash. When he receives the 150 fingerlings, he signs a document that is given to the fingerling supplier. The supplier in turn presents the same to FICCO to get his payment.

The fish farmer pays his loan after selling his lobsters. There’s no problem selling the harvest because the demand from Hong Kong and China is so big. And the importers prefer the cage-cultured lobster because they are much better than those caught from the wild. Sometimes, according to Nobilos, catchers from the wild have to squirt certain poisonous chemicals to induce the lobsters to come out from their hiding place among the rocky crevices. That’s bad.

SPINY LOBSTER: A Goldmine From The Sea
Dan Gudahl (right), PCCP chief of party, with Phillip Ong of Tateh Feeds. Tateh could formulate feeds for Spiny Lobster.

Daniel Gudahl, PCCP’s chief of party, says the farmer usually puts up his makeshift house right beside his lobsters’ cage so he could guard them from poachers. The farmer does not mind the long wait of nine months to one year before he can sell his lobsters. After all, his attention is not focused all day on his lobsters. He can also go out fishing to catch trash fish to feed his lobsters and some for his family.

Ronald Valencia, a fisherman of Cagdianao, Dumagat Island, borrowed from FICCO P81,700 to pay for 200 fingerlings that he raised as his first crop. He was so happy because he was able to make a profit of P214,350 in a culture period of one year. The profit was subsequently reinvested in 313 fingerlings worth P120,000 and the rest of the profit was used to buy a new motorcycle.

Ronald does not have any loan to pay now and he expects another bonanza from the 313 fingerlings that he is currently culturing right beside where he and his family live.

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