Monsoon may delay salt production

Unlike previous years, the salt production in 2020 in Thoothukudi will have a delayed start. A significant contributor of Tamil Nadu, the salt production in Thoothukudi is next to that of Gujarat and considered to be the second largest producer in India.
Monsoon may delay salt production
Salt pans in Thoothukudi

Madurai

The delay of salt production in Thoothukudi is due to the onset of Northeast monsoon, which gave a considerable amount of rain to the district, thereby casting shadow over the reformation works, which becomes mandatory for undertaking maintenance in salt pans.

Still many such salt pans remain inundated with water following occasional spells of rain that lasted even till December and now the situation is not conducive to take up the maintenance work.

Normally, during non-productive season, salt pans would undergo annual maintenance and production takes off either by the end of January or at the first week of February and winds down by September. But since the waterlogged salt pans are yet to be drained, it has become a stumbling block for manufacturers to work in reforming the pans.

Speaking to DT Next, Thoothukudi Small Scale Salt Producers Association, secretary, ARAS Dhanabalan, said,”It would take about six to eight weeks to reform a salt pan and production of new crop would take off either during end of February or in the middle of March. If Thoothukudi experienced rain again, then production would again be delayed.” On the expenditure front, he stated that it incurs about Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 towards maintenance cost on each of the acres of salt pan’.

Apart from heavy downpour during the monsoon, Thoothukudi also experienced sporadic rainfall during the middle of August and September last year that reduced production by 30 per cent.

Thoothukudi’s average salt production annually is 30 lakh tonnes, but the early onset of the Northeast monsoon caused decline in production that touched 21 lakh tonnes last year.

Since the market for this commodity is not enterprising after its demand dropped, it resulted in accumulation of stock. As of now, nearly three lakh tonnes has been maintained.

According to salt producer, S Petchimuthu, the delay in production will turn out to be a good deal for manufacturers in 2020 as there might be an increase in prices.

“While a tonne fetched Rs 600 to Rs 800 depending on its quality during 2018, the same quantity touched Rs 1,500 in the last quarter of 2019. Hence, the manufacturers hope for a better market in 2020,” he said.

Thoothukudi Salt Merchants Association, president, MSP Thenraja said,”Though there’s a dip in production last year, domestic market fared better than that of international market. The trade in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and partially in Odisha rose by 30 per cent in 2019.”

As for TPS Pon Kumar, a Thoothukudi based exporter, shipments of salt to overseas countries were becoming infrequent in the current fiscal. While in previous fiscal years, exports crossed 1 lakh tonne, but now it just crossed only 60,000 tonnes. “Owing to a sharp increase in price of Thoothukudi salt at procurement level , shippers are reluctant to procure the commodity. Normally, the price ranges between Rs 600 to Rs 800 a tonne, but now it soared to Rs1,800. Only when the prices reduce, exports would rebound,” he said.

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