Traders queue up to import rock salt

Rezaul Karim | Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Private-sector traders are persuading the government to allow them to import salt as the country has a huge deficit of such a key essential item, industry insiders said.
A number of applications have been submitted to the commerce ministry, seeking permission for importing rock salt and the number of applications continues to rise, officials said.
Many traders are on the list of such applicants. Most of them are trying to get permission from the authority to import crude salt, they added.
Till last week, over 11 importers of the country proposed to import rock salt from neighbouring India, a commerce ministry official said.
Despite frequent attempts over phone, secretary of the commerce ministry Shubhashish Bose could not be reached for his comments in this regard.
When contacted, proprietor of Karim Salt Crushing and Refinery Md Farhad Karim said, "We have sought special permission to import rock salt. There is a huge salt deficit in the country. Currently, the country has a deficit of 0.9 million tonnes of salt."
"We refine rock salt for kitchen and industrial requirement after importing it," he mentioned.
The government has not yet taken any decision to import salt this year as the country has a stock of around 0.4 million tonnes of the essential item, a senior official of the office of Chief Controller of Imports and Exports told the FE.
He, however, said salt issue came up for discussion at the meetings held in the commerce ministry.
The government imported 0.25 million and 0.5 million tonnes of crude salt in 2016 and 2017 respectively in an attempt to stabilise the local market, he added.
The deficit of salt was about 0.35 million tonnes in the last two years. Some 0.75 million tonnes of crude salt were imported against the deficit.
"So, now there is a sufficient stock of salt in the country to meet its demand after the second largest religious festival of the Muslims," the official said.
The government can only consider importing salt this season if the country faces acute shortage of the item, he said.
During the last season, the country failed to achieve the target of salt production due to unfavourable weather in the salt bed areas in April and May last, according to the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
After the last salt cultivation season that ended in mid-May, the industries ministry estimated the deficit at over 0.1 million tonnes.
Earlier, director (promotion and extension) of BSCIC Jiban Kumar Chowdhury said over 1.49 million tonnes of salt were produced in the last season against the target of 1.6 million tonnes.
The BSCIC set a target to produce 1.8 million tonnes of salt in the current season against the domestic demand for over 1.65 million tonnes.
The annual demand for salt increases by 10 per cent in line with the growing population, he said.
"The country saw a good yield of salt from November to February last. Judging from the production trend, we hoped that the country will enjoy a bumper salt production. But we missed the production target due to excessive rain in April and May last."
A significant amount of salt is being used for preserving hides and skins of sacrificial animals, a commerce ministry official said.
The country produced 1.62 million tonnes of salt in fiscal year 2015-16 and 1.66 million tonnes in the FY 2016-17, BSCIC sources said.

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