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Ban hits salt makers

By G. V. Prasada Sarma

NAUPADA (SRIKAKULAM DT), JUNE 16. The State Government's decision to ban the sale of common salt and to supply iodised salt through fair price shops calls attention, yet again, to the age-old salt industry here.

Salt fields are spread across more than 3,000 acres in Naupada, Moolapadu and Bhavanapadu. Salt produced here is consumed and used for industrial purposes. It is also sent to neighbouring Orissa.

The ban on the sale of common salt across the State was to be effective from June 4, but the High Court stayed its operation following an appeal by the Twin Cities Salt Packets' Suppliers Association. The order, however, does not apply to the 10 districts where the ban had been operative earlier.

Srikakulam is one of the seven districts where the ban had been imposed in the mid-1990s. But efforts at iodisation by the Department of Salt, with the help of UNICEF, were short-lived. Three plants, each costing Rs. 2 lakhs, were set up, and free potassium iodate supplied, according to the Superintendent of Salt at Naupada, J. P. Mishra. None of these plants works now. Four other plants, set up between Poodimadaka and Nakkapalli in Visakhapatnam district, have an annual capacity of 28,000 tonnes, but it not known whether they are working at full capacity.

Speaking to The Hindu , Dr. Mishra said that with the ban on sale of common salt being partial till recently, it was difficult to check where the salt produced was going, since manufacturers maintained that it was sent to districts where there was no ban. Since the abolition of the permit system in 2000, he said, the department had no means of checking where the salt was being transported.

He said renewed efforts to repair and revive the iodisation plants would begin; an expert Committee, headed by the Deputy Salt Commissioner, had already visited Naupada to suggest measures for iodisation and extend assistance to the plants. However, it was for the Government to implement the ban by invoking the Food Adulteration (Prevention) Act, he said.

Official estimates put the quantity of salt produced in and around Naupda at 56,000 tonnes. About 300 minor salt manufacturers make salt on land leased out by the Salt Department. Another 200 make it on less than 10 acres of land they own, for which they don't need a licence. The district also has half-a-dozen major manufacturers catering to industrial needs, as common salt is used in the manufacture of caustic soda. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of salt produced here is used for industrial purposes. The salt manufacturers' estimates of the production are much higher. The secretary of the Naupada Minor Salt Lessees' Association, Ravi Kumar Reddy, said the lessees produced about 30,000 tonnes of salt that catered to tribal areas in the district and Orissa. He estimated that 300 manufacturers used their own land produce another 30,000 tonnes. According to an industry source, the five major salt manufacturers produce between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes.

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