Madurai: Unseasonal rains have led to unprecedented fall in salt production in Thoothukudi triggering a steep rise in prices of the kitchen essential.
Since the commodity is becoming increasingly scarce, its market price is now a whopping Rs 4,000 a tonne, G Gragadurai, president, Thoothukudi Small Scale Salt Manufacturers Association, said on Saturday pointing out that three years ago, the price ranged from Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 a tonne.
Usually around April, Thoothukudi will have a stock of around six lakh to seven lakh tonnes of manufactured salt. But, at present, stocks have plummeted to 10,000 tonnes. The average annual salt production in parts of Thoothukudi is between 25 lakh and 30 lakh tonnes. But the unseasonal rains this year has played spoilsport bringing the production down by 40 per cent of its average. Normally, salt production peaks during May and June and if there’s no rain, the process will be stable. Gragadurai cautioned that if the production does not increase to expected levels, salt prices could climb further.
According to S Petchimuthu, another salt manufacturer, Thoothukudi has never witnessed such an escalation in the market. A year ago, a tonne cost Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 in Thoothukudi, he said.
MSP Thenraja, president, Thoothukudi Salt Merchants Association, said that he can successfully continue trading from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka only if the prices stay between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 a tonne. However, if the cost continues to remain high, salt merchants from Gujarat, the largest producer in India, would capture Thoothukudi’s market easily. Moreover, truck transportation of salt has turned out to be more expensive with diesel price continuing to rise unabated, he added.