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Young generation shying away from salt business

The state once had several villages involved in salt extraction. However today Goan salt is steadily losing out in the market as just few locals continue the occupation, writes Bhiva P Parab

The easy availability of iodized refined salt in the markets these days has affected the business of local common salt producers. The entry of iodized salt in the market has virtually wiped out local salt business.

Local salt which once used to be in good demand and sold out within no time now finds few takers as customers reach out for packaged salt that is easily available in the shops. Producers say that, they have to wait for the customers and earlier this was not the situation.

Saltpans and local salt production has reduced over the years in the state and the government needs to come forward to salvage the situation, say traditional salt producers. They are seeking help to raise their production. The government must come out with some scheme to encourage salt producers to go back to the traditional business, they say.

A salt producer said that the salt which we used to produce a few years back when the industrialized fine iodized salt was hardly available, used to get sold within no time, however he like other members of the community has to wait for the customers. “I am in this local salt business for last more than 40 years since my childhood. The production is lot of hard work. It starts somewhere in the month of December and goes on till the end of May or till the rains begin. We have to work in the scourging sun and my work begins from 5.30 in the morning and almost the whole day I am in my saltpans,” says a traditional salt producer.

The local salt is sold by ‘lata’ or ‘dabo’ (tin) for around Rs 100. A tin contains roughly 12 kgs of salt which means the producer get roughly Rs 8 per kg of salt, while most of the industrially produced fine salt roughly cost Rs 20 per kg. However there is more demand for the industrial processed fine iodized salt, which has reduced the demand for this traditional salt.

It is the younger generation which is not going into the local salt producing business as for them it does not seem to be lucrative. The younger generation needs to be encouraged to get involved in the traditional salt production.

A local said that, the young generation shy from doing the traditional work as they are educated it is not very lucrative. “However it is the need of the hour to boost this generation to get involved in the traditional salt production. I feel that the government should come forward with some scheme which will encourage the younger generation to come in this business. The government should look at the various problems faced by us and solve the issues,” he said.

It may be noted that the state of Goa once had several villages involved in salt extraction, however today just few continue the practice. Low income, lack of skilled labour, competition from industrially-manufactured salt, and losses incurred on the yearly damage to embankments are the major reasons for the drop in the number of saltpans.

“If younger generation does not take it to the local salt production then labourers have to be engaged and in recent years the labour cost is high and they charge around Rs 500 per day. The cost comes up to Rs 15,000 a month. If labourers are engaged in the work a major part of the profit goes into labour cost. It is difficult to get local labourers and the labourers coming from outside the state demand accommodation facility,” said a traditional producer.

There are several other difficulties which are faced by the salt producers which include transportation problem as hardly any approach roads are there to the saltpans. The salt produced has to be transported manually and the increasing transport cost also checks the salt producers to go long distances to sell the produced salt. It may be also noted that the traditional salt producers lack good storage facilities and the salt produced during a particular season if not sold in that season becomes difficult to store safely. Lack of good storage facilities is a major reason for producers to shy away from large-scale production.

According to the information available from the salt producers, when there is damage to the embankments, it affects the salt production. Regular maintenance of the embankments is necessary which again adds to the cost of salt production. Sometimes if there is more damage to the embankment then the cost is high and it eats a major part of the profit.

Mostly local salt is used for storage of raw mangoes, making pickle, for fish, etc. Otherwise mostly people use refined salt in the kitchen as now the refined salt is available in market in small packets and it does not require storage space and is available easily from small shops to the supermarkets.

A local went on to say that that it is not possible to store traditional salt in small flats in the city as already there is less space and common salt need to be bought in large amounts and so people in the urban areas mostly use the fine salt. In recent years even residents in the villages have started using the fine salt due to its easy availability and absence of storage facility. However the locals from villages purchase some quantity of traditional salt for applying on fish and for other requirements.

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