There are 13,000 salt farms (lease holders) across the country, which are providing employment to around 4 to 5 lakh people. Most of them are micro farmers. Nearly 900 are medium sized lease holders and around 15-20 are large producers including Tata, Nirma, GHCL etc.
The Indian Salt Manufacturers’ Association (ISMA) has demanded the classification of salt production as agricultural activity under the ministry of agriculture instead of its current status as an industry governed by the ministry of industries & mines.
“Just like farmers of any other commodity, salt farmers too require to do harvesting and cultivation in their salt farms. Salt production activities are done for eight months in a year and farmers take 8-10 crops during the period. The entire process is dependent upon natural forces. Hence, the salt farmers should also be protected by Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism,” says Bharat Raval, president of ISMA.
India’s total salt production is around 385 lakh tonne and Gujarat is having the lion’s share of around 75% due to its 1600-km long coastline and suitable geographical and climatic conditions, says Raval. There are 13,000 salt farms (lease holders) across the country, which are providing employment to around 4 to 5 lakh people. Most of them are micro farmers. Nearly 900 are medium sized lease holders and around 15-20 are large producers including Tata, Nirma, GHCL etc. India is exporting nearly 100 tonne salt to different countries.
With around 10% share Rajasthan is the second largest salt producing state, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh. In Himachal, salt is produced by mining, while in other states including Gujarat salt production process is based on sea or salt lakes.
“In the year 2000 electricity cost was Rs 4.75 per unit, HSD (fuel) per litre Rs 11.60 and minimum wage per labourer was `41 per day in Gujarat. Currently electricity charge has gone up to Rs 8.50 per litre, fuel cost is Rs 71.60 per litre and minimum wage is around `240 per day. But the market price of raw salt has increased merely from Rs 300 per tonne to Rs 500 per tonne during the last two decades,” he said while justifying demand of MSP for salt farmers.