With coastlines spanning over 2,000 kilometres, Sabah is the largest seaweed-producing state in Malaysia. The state offers growth potential in the sector as the seaweed production quality is competitive over other players in the region. Local seaweed supply has the capacity to service new processing demands.
The main seaweed-producing areas in Sabah are mainly on the East coast, specifically the districts of Semporna, Tawau, Kunak, and Lahad Datu. Recently seaweed producing areas have expanded in the western region of the state.


  • In 2019, Sabah produced 188,110 metric tonnes of seaweed aquaculture production worth USD$15.8 million.
  • Sabah is located within the “Coral Triangle”, an area known globally for biological resources that make it a hotspot of marine biodiversity.[1] This favourable environment enables the state’s coasts to grow various species of seaweed.
  • Euchema is the most cultivated variety grown in the state to accommodate high demand from buyers and processors for Eucheuma denticulatum (commercially known as spinosum). Euchema denticulatum is also used in the production of carrageenan,[2] which is used in many food products;[3] and semi-refined carrageenan is currently processed and exported to Peninsular Malaysia.

Investment Opportunities

  • Seaweed is widely regarded as a health food, owing to the presence of nutrients such as high iodine, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre.[4] The global commercial market for seaweed is projected to grow at a CAGR of almost 10 percent between 2020 and 2025.[5] Strategic nearby markets for Sabah’s seaweed industry include high seaweed consumption countries such as Japan, South Korea, and China.[6] Strong international market demand for carrageenan and agar for processing into food and pharmaceutical products will continue to drive growth in the seaweed industry.
  • The Sabah government has gazetted 7,500 hectares of new areas for seaweed cultivation under the Aquaculture Industrial Zone (AIZ) in addition to the 800 hectares designated previously.[7]
  • Factors such as the rising consumer adoption of plant-based products, increasing consumption of seaweed-based products, its status as a source of high nutrients and minerals, and growing government initiatives to boost seaweed cultivation are driving the growth of this market. It is estimated that the seaweed market will be worth USD$23.2 billion by 2028.[8]

Recent Investment Activity

  • Australian-listed biotechnology-based Stemcell United Ltd, through its unit SCU Southeast Asia Sdn Bhd (SCU-SEA), has partnered with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to develop and promote the commercialisation of seaweed especially sea grapes, which thrives in the seas surrounding Borneo. In Japan, sea grapes are served as high-end delicacies with sushi and sashimi.[9]

Quantity and Value of Seaweed Production in Sabah

Source: Sabah Department of Fisheries