Salt exports to rise 15% on weather woes

India's salt exports are set to rise by 15-20 per cent this year on account of increased demand from Southeast Asian nations and some parts of Europe, which faced heavy snowfall earlier this year.

Salt is used to clear snow as hardened snow gets soft and some even melts if salt is poured on it. Frequent snow, therefore, leads to higher demand for salt. Salt exports from the country is expected to touch 4.2 million tonnes (mt) in 2012-13, higher from 3.6 mt recorded last year.

"Exports are taking place in large volumes. Due to weather extremities in western countries, demand for salt is going up," said Bachubhai Ahir, president, Indian Salt Manufacturers' Association (ISMA).

India, which is the third largest salt producer in the world, traditionally exports to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and China. "Weather extremity is one of the reasons for the rise in export this year. But we are also increasing our share in other markets of Japan and China," said salt commissioner M A Ansari. "This year, we expect salt production to remain at around 25 mt against 22 mt last year. And by the end of this fiscal, our exports are expected to reach around 4.2 mt."

The soda ash industry is one of the largest salt consuming sectors. "There is slackness in the glass industry, which has reduced soda ash consumption resulting in a fall in demand for salt in this segment," said an ISMA official.

However, increased consumption of soda ash from the detergent industry is believed to maintain demand-supply conditions. Of the total production, over 50 per cent is used as industrial input, while around 25-30 per cent goes for edible purposes. The remaining part either gets carried over to the next year or is exported.

"There is enough production of salt in the country. So, we don't see any possibility of a shortage or a price rise in the near-term due to the rise in exports," said Ahir.

However, salt exports to Europe or the US have remained a costly affair due to high logistical costs involved. "We have geographical advantage in exporting to regions like Asia, Asia-Pacific or Africa. The US being a distant place, there are less chances of Indian salt getting exported to that country," said Ansari.

According to industry players, the price of raw salt hovers around Rs 550-600 per tonne.

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