POST TIME: 21 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Market price rubs salt into farmers’ wounds
Staff Reporter, Dhaka

Market price rubs salt into farmers’ wounds

Salt farmers get a meagre Tk 5 for producing 1kg of salt, which is bad enough, but watching it being sold for Tk 35 in the market is like salt being rubbed into their wounds. Even though rumours about shortage of salt have triggered panic buying across the country and a price hike, the farmers  are still selling their yields at Tk 4-5 per kg. They have been lamenting the low price for their yield throughout the year, saying they are not getting a fair deal.

Farmers said they sold salt at Tk 530 per maund last year, but the price dropped to Tk 150 this season, down from Tk 280-350 at the beginning of the season. According to the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), the new year's salt production season has started since November 15. This time, the demand for salt is 1,849,000 metric tonnes and the target is set at 1,850,000 metric tonnes. On the other hand, the surplus salt was 4,3,000 metric tonnes last year.

On the other hand, salt farmers are worried about the low cost of salt. They said they do not get a fair price by selling the salt. Field-level brokers use different techniques to reduce the salt price for their own profit, they alleged. Farmers in Chakoria and Bashkhali areas claimed that all the salt cultivators here are not getting a proper price for salt. Three months ago, salt was sold at Tk 280, but the price has dropped to Tk 150-170.

Farmers want the government to help them get a fair price for the salt. There is a demand to form a salt board. Sayed Ahmed, general manager of the BSCIC salt project, said salt stocks will meet the demand for three months. He admitted the low price, as farmers sold salt at Tk 4-5 per kg on Tuesday.

Salt production in the country touched a record 18.24 lakh tonnes in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the BSCIC said. Due to favourable weather conditions, salt production increased to 18 lakh tonnes in around 13 salt producing hubs of the country. The majority portion of the country’s demand is met by salt produced in Chakaria, Pekua, Moheshkhali, Kutubdia, Teknaf, and Cox’s Bazar Sadar upazilas and Banshkhali upazila of Chittagong. Around 4,00,000 people are involved in salt farming.

President of the Bangladesh Salt Mill Owners’ Association, Nurul Kabir, said if the government is not careful about importing salt from abroad, the salt industry of the country will be destroyed. He said that in 2018, the demand for salt (sodium sulphate) was 1,00,000-1,50,000 metric tonnes, but 9,00,000 metric tonnes were imported; the demand for industrial salt was 1,50,000-2,00,000 metric tonnes, but around 7,00,000 metric tonnes were imported.

He said unscrupulous traders are directly marketing the imported salt against the use of industrial salt. Because of this, the rate of salt produced in the field continues to decline and public health is under threat.

Unscrupulous traders across the country on Tuesday took advantage of the panic buying and jacked up prices as high as Tk 80 a kg, which is usually Tk 25-35.

The chaos prompted the police and local administration to launch drives in the capital, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Bogura, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, and Moulvibazar. There were also reports of panic buying from Cox’s Bazar, Chattogram, Lalmonirhat, Chandpur, Cumilla, Pirojpur, Narayanganj, and Bagerhat.