Unseasonal rains push up salt price in Kerala

April 24th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by admin  

Kozhikode, April 24 (IANS) It is the turn of salt now to spice up the price rise. The price of common salt (crystals) has risen around 70 percent during the last one month here. Traders say the rise is due to the unseasonal showers in March that severely affected salt production at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, the key production centre in south India.

On Thursday, the wholesale price of salt was Rs.300 per 70 kg bag. “The price was Rs.170 a month ago. This is the steepest rise in price that I have ever seen,” says Muhammed Sali, a salt trader for the last 22 years.

The escalation in price of salt powder is comparatively moderate. “The price of powder has gone up by Rs.30 per 25 kg bag and it is Rs.5.6 a kg compared to Rs 4.4 a month ago,” he says.

However, more than the price rise, it is the shortage of supply which is worrying traders. “The companies are not taking orders for supply. We think that producers are waiting to hike the price further,” he says.

Traders hope that the price rise may moderate a bit as production re-starts in Tuticorin.

“The price may come down in a few weeks; but it will not come to the previous levels,” says Feroz Khan, Sali’s business partner.

“When the tsunami struck in 2004, the price of salt doubled from Rs.100 to Rs.200 per bag. But, prices never came down to the previous levels. It fell a bit and settled at Rs.140,” says Khan.

Salt producers at Tuticorin also say that the market will face shortages in the coming days.

“Unseasonal rain has affected production. We are to start the salt production in 20 days if there is no rain. But this will not make up the loss in production. Market may witness a shortage of 40 to 50 percent in coming days,” Latha Rangarajan, brand manager of G. Das & Company Private Limited, which produces 100,000 tonnes of salt a year, told IANS.

Rangarajan said that her company is planning to source salt from Gujarat, which is unaffected by rains, to meet the demand here. The company has 1,800 acres of salt pans in Tuticorin.

The price escalation of salt is also affecting industries like the textile sector that uses salt as a raw material.

“We use salt for reactive dyeing. The price of salt has almost doubled. A month ago we got the supplies for Rs.2.58 per kg, now the price is at Rs.4.50 (a kg),” said Ramakrishnan, managing partner of Kannur Handloom Exports, located in Kannur district of Kerala.

Tata Chemicals, one of the largest suppliers of edible salt, however, says they have neither hiked the price of their product nor faced salt shortage.

“As far as our company is concerned there is no issue of shortage. We are sourcing salt from Gujarat. In Tuticorin, there is a production shortage of around 40 percent.

“There is no question of price increase as far as Tata Salt is concerned. I don’t know about other brands,” said A.S. Venkitaramanan, regional sales manager of Tata Chemicals.

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