By Nayan Dave
Salt production in India is likely to reduce by nearly 30%, on account of a delayed onset of the harvest season, in the country’s largest salt-producing state, Gujarat.
Generally, salt harvesting in Gujarat starts from March, but due to the extended monsoon, especially in the coastal areas, the majority of salt pans initiated harvesting process from mid-April, says Bharat Raval, president of Indian Salt Manufacturers’ Association (ISMA), adding that if the monsoon commences before mid-June, there would be further a production cut. “On an average, India produces nearly 30 million tonne of salt every year. Of the total production of salt in the country, Gujarat has a lion’s share of almost 90%. The state witnessed rain till the first week of October last year. As a result, salt pan operators have had less time for harvesting,” says Raval, adding that generally, salt production in the state begins by August.
In the event of a more than 30% dip in salt production, the central government may enforce restrictions on exports of the commodity, said a salt exporter based in Kandla (Kutch), requesting anonymity. Of India’s total salt production, nearly 10 million tonne is exported, 12.5 million tonne is consumed by industries and the remaining is used by retail customers. The deficit in salt production would have a cascading impact on glass, polyester, plastic, chemicals and other important industries. India is the third largest producer of salt in the world after the USA and China. The country exports to 55 countries across the globe.
Kamal Patel, salt pan operator based in Kutch, says that generally, the salt harvest season starts in mid-October and continues till June’s second week, but salt producers have been forced to start operations one-and-a-half months later, in December, this season. Salt pans in Kutch, Surendranagar, Morbi, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Bharuch, Surat and Navsari districts were filled to the brim till the beginning of December, he added. With around 10% share, Rajasthan is the second highest producer of salt, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Himachal Pradesh. In Himachal and Rajasthan, salt is harvested by mining, while in other states, including Gujarat, salt is produced through a solar-evaporation process of sea water.
Categorise salt as agriculture product: Manufacturers
The Indian Salt Manufacturers’ Association (ISMA) has demanded that salt be considered as an agricultural product, and not a mining commodity. “Before independence, India’s salt requirement used to be fulfilled by sendha namak (rock salt) mined from salt mines situated in Himachal Pradesh. Due to this, the British government prescribed salt as a mining product. Nearly 90% of the raw salt is being produced through the solar evaporation process at present; all varieties of raw salt except rock salt should be prescribed as an agriculture product,” said ISMA in a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.