‘Acreage under salt pans was decreasing year by year’

Salt production in Tuticorin has come down drastically this year owing to various factors.

A.R.A.S. Dhanabalan, secretary, Tuticorin Small Scale Salt Manufacturers’ Association, said the trend in the market was fluctuating as both domestic and international markets were not enterprising.

Shrinking manpower had affected the industry as the younger generation was not keen on working in slat pans. Even area under salt pans was decreasing year by year.

To save this industry from being defunct, the government should fix a minimum support price of Rs.1, 000 per tonne. Besides, salt manufacturing should be exempted from the Food Safety Standards Act (FSSA). These were some of the demands made to Minister of State for Commerce and Industry E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan recently, said Mr.Dhanabalan.

Representation had also been made to lay double track from Madurai to Tuticorin to ensure speedy movement of salt cargo, he added.

According to M.S.A. Peter Jebaraj, president, Gandhi-Irwin Salt Manufacturers’ Association, as the product did not fetch desirable price in the market, the manufacturers were reluctant to increase the acreage under salt pans.

As the cost of product is less than the production cost, the manufacturers were not ready to increase production. Initially in 2013, unscheduled power cuts had crippled the industry. Moreover, production was badly affected in June and July last year, the peak season, owing to lack of winds. Hence, many proprietors of salt pans had come forward to lease out their pans to other business entrepreneurs.

To protect this labour-intensive industry, the State government should provide electricity at a subsidised cost. Almost 50,000 labourers were relying on salt production, Mr.Jebaraj said.

Reliable sources from the Salt Department, when contacted, said around 14 lakh tonnes of salt had been produced so far in 2013-14. During the previous fiscal, the production volume touched 19.24 lakh tonnes.

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