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The interest in cultivating seaweed in European seas as source of food, feed and feedstock for the biobased economy is growing. Amongst the species investigated is kelp, also known as sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima or Laminaria saccharina. The European kelp sector is relatively small, compared to the global production and use, yet growth of the sector is aimed for. An inevitable question for European seaweed producers is how they can compete in the global seaweed value chain. This paper assesses to what extent the European strategy for growing the kelp sector matches with the dynamics of current kelp value chain. The global value chains (GVC) framework is applied to study how the global kelp sector is organized, including analysis of trends in science and patents. The upgrading strategy deployed by the European sector is critically evaluated against this framework. The analysis points towards various dividing lines between the established kelp cultivation and processing industry in Asia and the (far smaller) nascent cultivation and processing industry for high-value applications. These represent two unconnected worlds. Chain or intra-sectoral upgrading to spur the European kelp sector could occur if European food sector engage more closely with the European producers. Those bring financial power and a broader client base to the table and are instrumental in linking production to the demands of end-users.
- Value chain
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