Though the maintenance work in several salt pans was under way in parts of Thoothukudi, the largest contributor for salt production in Tamil Nadu, the production was expected to resume in other pans on Sunday.
Even the maintenance work in salt pans have been progressing at a slow pace as the area has witnessed unseasonal spells of rain this year. Only about 60 percent of salt pans in Thoothukudi had witnessed completion of such maintenance work so far. Dhanabalan said, “Production touched 85 percent in 2017 but only 60 per cent last year as the rains played havoc to the production. An acre of salt pan incurred an expenditure of Rs 25,000.”
G Gragadurai, president of the association, said, “A steady increase in the market price of this commodity, which mostly caters to the needs of edible consumption and the rest to industrial needs, has put the manufacturers in a comfortable position as of now. Though the delay in salt production was a matter of concern, the manufacturers were content with the prevailing market scenario.”
“The salt industry saw an unprecedented slump in the market in 2017 when a tonne of manufactured salt sold for just Rs 400, far below the production cost. The market picked up gradually in 2018 after its market price jumped to Rs 800. Currently, a tonne of salt is priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,200,” added Gragadurai.
S Petchimuthu, a Thoothukudi-based salt pan proprietor, said that some manufacturers were reluctant to take up maintenance work in pans since a fresh spell of rains is expected in the coming days.
MSP Thenraja, president, Tuticorin Salt Merchants Association, who caters to the market in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, said, “Owing to the unprecedented drop in production last year, salt stocks have almost depleted now and its market price could go up if demand exceeds supply this year.”