Ryots of East Godavari district are at their wits' end as packaged salt is replacing the crystal variety
Faced with a shrinking market, salt farmers of East Godavari district, who produce over 10,000 tonnes of crystal salt every year, are at their wits' end. As packaged powder salt is replacing the crystal salt in the households even in the rural pockets, they are looking for alternative markets.
Of the total 1,200 acres of salt lands, about 1,000 acres are located on the outskirts of Kakinada. Gurajanapalli, Coringa, Chollangi and nearby villages are known for quality crystal salt. As the season begins, salt farmers are busy monitoring the ongoing labour works and estimating the yield. “The production starts in February and continues till the monsoon. If there is no unseasonal rain, we will continue to get the yield till July,” says Donaboyina Anantha Rao, a salt farmer from Chollangi. He recalls how small-time vendors used to make rounds of the fields right from the commencement of the season. “Now there are hardly any takers for domestic consumption. There is demand in poultry farms, fish tanks and other industrial purposes, but high transportation cost is posing a major challenge,” he says with a sense of resignation. The farmers have to invest on preparing salt pans and on the labour. The yield depends on day temperatures, as salt is cultivated by the solar evaporation method only. “Unseasonal rain poses a challenge to the crop. Whenever cyclone batters the area, salt lands lose their shape forcing us to invest heavily again,” says Dommeti Arjuna Rao of Gurajanapalli.
“Quality of the product and marginal holdings are the two major challenges for salt production and marketing here,” says P. Venu, Assistant Commissioner of Salt, Government of India. He says the farmers have to improve the quality of crystals to get better market. “Instead of operating individually, they can form as a society to get good returns on their produce,” he says.
Keywords: salt farmers