Gov't should support prices to save salt industry: official

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An official has suggested that the government support locally-produced salt prices in order to prevent farmers from quitting due to plummeting prices.

"The government has had policies to keep rice and coffee prices stable by asking relevant agencies to buy produce from farmers at certain prices and stockpile them, so why doesn't the government have such plans for the salt industry?" said Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Products Processing and Salt Industry.

Local salt prices are currently VND500-600 per kilogram, not much higher than the very low rate of VND200-500 in mid-March. Last year, salt was sold at VND1,500-2,000 per kilogram.

The low prices are discouraging many farmers from harvesting.

Experts, including Hoa, said salt prices have plummeted this year as bumper crops and the presence of imported salt on the local market formed an oversupply.

In February, the Ministry of Industry and Trade allowed local companies to import 170,000 tons of salt.

But Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Bien said in early March that the imports were for industrial use and would not affect farmers.

Salt farmers in the Mekong Delta and in some south-central provinces have bumper crops thanks to continuously hot weather predicted to last until April.

In the first three months of this year, the southern region harvested 300,000 tons of salt, a 230-percent increase against the same period last year.

But Hoa said farmers would quit their jobs in the coming months and the targeted output of one million tons would not be realized.

"To prevent the situation from becoming worse, the government should plan to support salt farmers in terms of prices. It should set up a committee to calculate the rate of support or the lowest price that businesses must pay for a kilogram of salt," he said.

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