a year ago

Price of salt halved by millers in Cox's Bazar

Growers fear a sizable loss

A farmer working in a salt bed in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar district — FE Photo
A farmer working in a salt bed in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar district — FE Photo

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COX'S BAZAR, Mar 14: The price of salt produced on the coast of Cox's Bazar has registered a drastic fall with the millers slashing it to Tk 250 from Tk 500 per maund.

It is learnt, salt import was halted last year due to a hike in import duty.

Consequently, a 'syndicate' raised the price of the locally produced salt.

Salt stored last year was sold earlier at Tk 350-400 per maund. As the local variety salt was sold at a high price, farmers in coastal areas became interested in its cultivation.

About 42,000 marginal farmers are involved in salt production in Cox's Bazar and Chattogram's Banshkhali, and about 0.1 million people are involved in the salt business.

Assistant General Mana-ger of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), Cox's Bazar Muhammad Ridwanur Rashid, said salt production goes on in Cox's Bazar Sadar, Eidgaon, Moheshkhali, Kutubdia, Pekua, Chakaria, Teknaf and Banshkhali from Nove-mber 15 to April 15.

The salt production target in Cox's Bazar this year was set at 2.34 million tonnes.

As of March 07, around 0.89 million tonnes of salt were produced in the district which was around 0.4 million tonnes more than that of the corresponding period of the last year.

This time last year, salt production was 0.5 million tonnes and the price was Tk 350 per maund.

Ridwan also said now 17,000 tonnes of salt are being produced daily on the coast of Cox's Bazar.

Even a week ago salt was sold at Tk 480-500 per maund; but for a few days, it is being sold at the half price, which has come as a matter of disappointment for the farmers.

If production is stopped due to fear of losses, it will be difficult to meet the target, said Ridwan.

In Eidgaon, Kutubdia, Moheshkhali, Pekua, Chakaria and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar, salt is being sold at Tk 250 per maund.

In some areas of Cox's Bazar, salt is being sold for Tk 250-280. Around 100,000 people, including 42,000 marginal farmers, who are involved in salt production, have fallen into financial setback for the price fall.

However, millers say although the price of salt at the field level is Tk250 per maund, they are buying it at Tk 350-360.

As a result, profit is going into the pockets of middlemen and traders.

There are 69 salt factories in Islampur of Eidgaon upazila of Cox's Bazar and most of the salt produced on the coast is processed here.

Salt farmer Sharif Uddin of Moheshkhali said, "Ten days ago, I sold salt at Tk 490-500 per maund. Now it is being sold at Tk 250. Many salt farmers like me are worried as the price may decrease further."

It costs farmers more than Tk 200 to produce salt per maund, he said, adding salt is being sold at Tk 250-280 in some areas.

Faisal Arefin, a salt farmer in Teknaf, said, "A few days ago, I sold salt for Tk 470 per maund. But now, it has been available at Tk 250."

Asked what caused the sudden fall in the price, he said the mill owners have reduced the price through syndication.

Mill owners bought most of the salt produced on the coast and now they don't want to buy it at more than Tk 250, he alleged.

Md. Rahim Ullah, a salt farmer in Chakaria, said, "After producing salt on three acres of land, I sold four and a half maunds of salt in the last three months. I got Tk 500 per maund in December. Last Sunday, salt was available at Tk 250. As the price of salt has fallen during the peak season, the financial condition of farmers like us is going to worsen."

President of Cox's Bazar Salt Farmers and Traders Council Makshud Ahmad said, "It is important to stop conspiracy of the unscrupulous mill owners to ensure fair price of local salt."

"If a fair price is not ensured, supply of salt will be stopped. Cultivators at all levels demand strict punishment for those who are conspiring to destroy the domestic salt industry," Mr Ahmad added.

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