Locally-Produced Salt Needs Improvement for Industrial Market

The salt import policy aimed at fulfilling the domestic need for salt often poses problems for local salt farmers. Sadly, with lower sodium level compared to the imported one, salt made by local farmers can’t meet the requirements to be sold to manufacturers.

Salt produced manually often has lower sodium content compared to imported salt. Because of this, imported salt is often more preferred by manufacturers. (ACTNews/Ardiansyah)

ACTNews, JAKARTA – The need for salt in Indonesia in 2021 reaches 4.6 million tons, 84 percent of which is the need for industrial salt, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

To ensure the availability of salt for industry, import of 3.07 million tons of industrial salt has been agreed on the condition that only four industries get the shares of the imported salt: Chlor-alkali plants, miscellaneous food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and oil drilling.

"Other industries other than those mentioned above are required to use domestically produced salt. Imports of industrial salt still have to be done because of several requirements that cannot be met by locally produced salt," Agus said in a webinar on Friday (24/9/2021).

Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries revealed that the total local salt production in 2020 only reached 1.3 million tons of varying quality against the demand of 4.6 million tons.

"The second factor [other than the salt production that is incommensurate with the demand] that is no less important is the quality of the salt. Some industries such as Chlor-alkali plants, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics, oil drilling, miscellaneous food require salt that contains high sodium chloride and low metal contaminants. The third factor is the guaranteed availability. Because the industry operates throughout the year, it necessitates the continuous supply or raw materials,” he shared.

Efforts to improve salt quality

INDEF economist Nailul Huda said it is possible for locally-produced salt to meet the standards of industrial salt. However, further processing will require more costs, so the price will be more expensive.

Huda added, the cause of the low amount and quality of locally-produced salt is the lack of incentives from the government for salt farmers. "Salt farmers receive no incentives for producing industrial salt while they still rely on sunlight for the crystallization," he said.

It takes longer to produce salt with high content of sodium chloride. However, even if they spend more time producing salt with higher content of sodium chloride, there is not much difference in terms of price.

In Rembang, Huda illustrated, the price of both low and high-grade salt is IDR 15 per kilogram while the government regulation stipulates that grade 1 salt should be sold at IDR 750 per kilogram and grade 2 salt at IDR 500 per kilogram. “ 

Huda gave an example, the price of salt for good and bad quality was the same in the range of Rp. 150 per kilogram (kg) in Rembang. In fact, according to the government's price regulation, quality 1 salt should be worth Rp. 750 per kg and quality 2 to be Rp. 500 per kilogram. "So instead of taking longer to produce grade 1 salt, which will certainly affect production costs, these salt farmers choose to produce lower-grade salt because the price is the same after all,” he explained.

ACTNews interviewed Sunan Aji, a salt farmer in Muarabaru Village, Cilamaya Wetan, Karawang Regency. Sunan, who produces salt manually, was once offered to sell his salt to industries. However, the sodium chloride content of his salt is still low while the charcoal content is high. He suspected it is because of his manual salt production.

“If you make salt, you should use HDPE geomembrane. I still evaporate the salt manually hence it contains contaminants. If you use HDPE, the salt will be purer,” said Sunan. He hopes to increase the quality of his salt.

Salt Waqf, one of the products of the productive Seafood Waqf program which is an effort to absorb the locally-produced salt. (ACTNews)

Global Wakaf-ACT gives stimulus to Salt Waqf products with local cooperatives to absorb the production of farmers.

"For the first step, our target is 50 families of salt waqf producers, and we are targeting to meet the needs of 400 families with 100 tons of salt," said Danu Putra Anugrah from the Global Wakaf-ACT.

In the future, through the Productive Seafood Waqf program, Global Wakaf-ACT also hopes to support salt farmers. “In this program, we hope that we can provide capital for salt farmers, and support them with prismatic salt houses and production tools such as geomembranes. In the end, we also expect to absorb their product. Of course, these objectives can be reached with the support of all benefactors," said Danu. []