In an attempt to bolster salt quality and yield, government will undertake a project on biological management of salt that will help cut down on its calcium content and make it fit for industrial consumption.

“We will be undertaking biological management of salt in Gujarat on a pilot project basis in collaboration with scientific institutions, which can serve as a model for the salt industry,” Central Salt Commissioner S. Sundaresan told PTI.

“With this technology, salt quality can be improved at least by 50 per cent and its yield can be enhanced by 10 to 20 per cent,” Mr. Sundaresan said.

The implementation of biological management can cut down the calcium content of salt to 50 per cent, after which it becomes highly beneficial for industrial consumption, he said adding “this technology can boost our exports.”

“Traditionally, salt industry adopts brine management for salt precipitation. It has been observed that brine contains biological organisms, which facilitates and also harms salt production. So by this technology, we facilitate the existing biological organisms in brine which promote salt production while suppressing those which are detrimental,” Mr. Sundaresan said, explaining the biological management process.

Caustic Soda and Soda Ash industry that consume 75 lakh tonnes of salt annually, will be the major beneficiaries of this project as impurities would be reduced, Mr. Sundaresan said.

“Action plan for this ambitious project will be drafted within the next three months, which is also a part of the recommendations of the concluding India International Salt Summit-2010,” he said.

Government will collaborate with institutions like Bhavnagar-based Central Salt and Marine Chemical Research Institute (CSMCRI), Biology Department of Madras University, National Institute of Oceanography and SRM University Chennai, to draw an action plan for biological management technology, he said.

According to Mr. Sundaresan, implementation of biological management technique would cost Rs 10,000 to 20,000 per acre, after which the yield can go up by 10 to 20 per cent.

“The technology is also beneficial for small salt units in India, which account for 83 per cent of total salt manufacturers registered, and cannot increase capacity through mechanisation,” Mr. Sundaresan said.

Out of the 11,800 odd salt manufacturers registered in India, nearly 10,500 units fall in small category having salt fields less than 10 acres, he said.

Through biological management, scientific layout and prudent brine management yield of small units can be increased from 60 tonnes per acre to 100 tonnes, Mr. Sundaresan said.

These small units produce four to five million tonnes of salt annually, Mr. Sundaresan said.

The technology of biological management of salt is at a very nascent stage in India, but is practiced in countries like China, USA, Australia and Mexico, for improving both product quality and yield.

Government has set a target of doubling the country’s salt production from current levels of 18 to 19 million tonnes per annum to 38 to 40 million tonnes by 2020, but the challenge is to produce quality salt of international standards, he said.

Japan imports around nine million tonnes of salt, and there lies the opportunity for countries like India that currently exports merely four to five lakh tonnes of salt, Mr. Sundaresan said.

According to Mr. Sundaresan, out of 5.93 lakh hectares of land identified for salt production in India, merely 3.25 lakh hectares is actually used, leaving ample scope for capacity expansion.

Mr. Sundaresan estimates that in another two to three years, around 1.5 lakh acres of land shall be added to Gujarat’s salt landscape, a state that accounts for 75 per cent of countries total salt production.

“Around 1.5 lakh acres of land can be added to existing salt producing area in Rann of Kutch and Malya in Surendranagar,” he added.