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Salt output misses target, reliance on imports grows

Abdul Monayem Khan | May 22, 2018 12:00:00

COX'S BAZAR, May 20: Salt production in the country fell short of the target this year also in continuation of the trend of last few years leading to the country's growing dependence on imports.

The current season fetched a salt output of 1.49 million (14.93 lakh) tonnes, said the Cox's Bazar office of the BSCIC, the prime mover of the country's industrialisation process.

The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) set a target to produce 1.8 million (18 lakh) tonnes this season against the demand for 1.62 million tonnes.

Cox's Bazar BSCIC office Deputy General Manager Dildar Ahmed Chowdhury said over 1.49 million tonnes of salt were produced in the current season.

Once salt was the only agro-product Bangladesh was self-sufficient in. But due to the failure in achieving targets in the last few years, salt is now becoming a permanent item on the list of imports, experts said.

Salt production in the coastal areas of Cox's Bazar drew to an end on Tuesday for this season, as rainfall started last week.

At least 45,000 farmers cultivated salt in the seven upazilas of Cox's Bazar district and Banskhali upazila of Chattogram. About 64,000 acres of land were brought under the cultivation, BSCIC officials said.

The country achieved the salt production target in the fiscal year (FY) 2013-2014. The production in the FY hit 1.75 million tonnes against the target of 1.6 million tonnes.

In the next three fiscal years the country failed to achieve the production targets. In the FY 2014-2015 the production stood at about 1.28 million tonnes against the target of 1.8 million tonnes. In the FY 2015-2016 the figure was 1.62 million tonnes against the target of 1.8 million tonnes and in the FY 2016-2017 about 1.66 million tonnes against the target of 1.8 million tonnes, BSCIC sources said.

Salt producers and farmers said a fall in the number of salt beds, unfavourable weather, low prices of the produce and import from foreign sources are the main causes of the production shortfall.

At present salt is selling at Tk 220 to 250 per maund at the field level. Salt farmer Abdul Khaleq of Chowfaldandi area in Cox's Bazar Sadar upazila said the minimum price should be fixed at Tk 400 per muand.

According to sources, there are about 70,000 acres of land fit for salt cultivation in Cox's Bazar district and Banskhali upazila of Chattogram. But of them, about 4,500 acres of land have been under government acquisition for big projects at places like Matarbari, Dhalghata and Teknaf.

Millers already imported 0.5 million (five lakh) tonnes of salt in the current fiscal year citing the shortage of production. They imported 0.1 million (one lakh) tonnes in the last fiscal year.

Experts said if the imports continue to grow in every passing year, the salt industry will come under threat.

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