COX'S BAZAR: Salt farmers have requested the government to revise the initial decision of importing edible salt since there is already an ample reserve of salt in the country.
According to the Salt Farmers' Association, Bangladesh has a salt reserve of 0.6 million (6 lakh) tonnes; of which 0.45 million (4.5 lakh) tonnes are still lying unsold.
A syndicate of refiners, however, is trying to import salt from abroad without buying domestic salt, alleged a number of salt farmers of Cox's Bazar. Besides, the salt farmers are now working in the field to produce more salt.
The Commerce Ministry has initially recommended the import of 0.31 million (3.16 lakh) tonnes of salt due to its possible scarcity.
The salt farmers of the district reacted negatively when the industries secretary informed them about the import of salt in a view-exchange meeting in the conference room of the Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner's office recently.
At the meeting, Industries Secretary Zakia Sultana said the Ministry of Commerce has initially recommended importing 0.31 million (3.16 lakh) tonnes of salt.
A committee led by the deputy commissioner will be formed soon to address the real stock of salt at the ground level, she said.
She asked the concerned people to prepare an action plan to set annual targets as per the demand for salt in May before the production season sets in.
"A decision on import of salt will be made in due course subject to demand," she added.
The industries secretary also called on the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries (BSCIC) to take initiatives to allot land to the actual salt farmers to reduce the cost of production.
The BSCIC officials of Cox's Bazar Salt Industry Office said there is a reserve of 0.16 million (1 lakh 65 thousand) tonnes of salt at the field level till November 15 this year.
They argued in favour of import, fearing that there will be a shortage even in this situation.
Jafar Iqbal Bhuiyan, Deputy General Manager of BSCIC Cox's Bazar office, said, "The production of salt this year is estimated to be around 2 million (20 lakh) tonnes. The country's demand for salt is 2.2 million (22 lakh) tonnes."
At this, salt farmers and refiners, however, reacted disapprovingly.
A representative of the salt farmers, Shafiq Ahmed, said, "With the current stock of salt, Bangladesh can run till February, 2022. In this situation, the government is trying to import salt with wrong information. And it will make farmers count a huge loss."
AHM Shahid Ullah Chowdhury, General Secretary of the Salt Farmers' Association, said that the farmers could not sell the salt produced in the last season.
"In this situation, the decision to import salt will be suicidal for the farmers," he added.
On this, Maheshkhali-Kutubdia Member of Parliament Asheq Ullah Rafiq said, "Officials of the government department concerned have spoken in favour of possible deficit. We have requested them not to allow the import of salt before next June-July".