14:50 | 20/10/2015 Economy- Society
(VEN) - Despite the large potential for industrial salt production and the country’s high industrial salt stockpile, Vietnam has to import salt from abroad to cater to domestic industries. This paradox has been evident for many years.
Increasing demands for industrial salt
According to Bui The Cuong, expert of the Department of Chemicals under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), industrial salt is used mainly for the chemical industry for producing sodium chloride to be used for manufacturing soap and paper, dyeing fabric and processing pharmaceuticals and food; soda to be used in the manufacture of glass, construction glass, pulp and detergents; and some sodium-based chemicals. Soda chloride is mainly produced by the South Basic Chemicals JSC, Vedan Vietnam Enterprise Corp., Ltd and Viet Tri Chemical JSC. The country’s annual soda chloride production totals just 140,000 tonnes, while the actual demand exceeds 300,000 tonnes. Soda is mainly produced by the Chu Lai Soda Processing JSC that annually consumes 200,000 tonnes of industrial salt.
It is estimated that an annual industrial salt amount of 600,000 tonnes is needed since 2016, which is no small a challenge for the Vietnamese salt industry, said Bui The Cuong.
Many companies, including the South Basic Chemicals JSC, have failed to operate at full capacity for several years due to a lack of industrial salt.
Industrial salt production input shortages
According to the MoIT, Vietnam has excessive crude salt while suffering processed salt shortages.
According to the industrial salt production standards, crude salt for industrial salt production must be dry and contain more than 98 percent sodium chloride and few impurities, meanwhile Vietnam’s crude salt only contains of 92 percent sodium chloride and many impurities. In addition, domestic industrial salt cannot compete with foreign alternatives in terms of cost. For example, industrial salt imported from India and Pakistan is priced at VND1,500-1,600 per kg, while domestic industrial salt in Hai Phong is priced at VND2,500 per kg.
During the 2011-2014 period, the MoIT granted quotas to import 51,000 tonnes of industrial salt per year. However, some companies must import more due to great demands.
According to An Van Khanh, Deputy Head of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), there are 15,051ha devoted to salt production across the country, with an annual output of 900,000 tonnes, meeting only 23-25 percent of the domestic demand.
Focusing on high-quality industrial salt production
Industrial salt is produced manually on a small scale, largely dependent on weather and characterized by low productivity. Every hectare of industrial salt production in Vietnam requires 30 salt farmers while other countries may use less than one farmer per hectare.
The MARD has piloted several high-quality industrial salt production models in Thai Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Ba Ria-Vung Tau provinces and the salt produced from these models have been exported to Japan, the US, the Republic of Korea and Chinese Taipei. Domestically produced high-quality industrial salt has received positive feedback from both domestic and foreign customers.
According to the MARD’s salt sector restructuring project, 14,500ha will be used for salt production by 2020, with an annual capacity of two million tonnes, including 8,000ha under industrial salt production, with an annual capacity of 1.3 million tonnes. The project will help improve salt production facilities and technologies and the added value by 20 percent while promoting salt production links via a series of incentives.
Diversifying investment in salt production
According to Deputy Head of the Department of Chemicals Luu Hoang Ngoc, industrial salt consumers want to secure stable suppliers in the domestic market and to limit imports. So the government should have more incentives for industrial salt producers to boost domestic production.
Many experts in salt production also agreed with Luu Hoang Ngoc’s opinion, saying that the government should get involved in salt production to solve the current situation of lacking industrial salt.
Salt companies and farmers should cooperate closely in salt production in order to meet domestic industrial needs, said General Director of the Dong Hai Salt JSC Le Van Dau.
A salt mining and processing project in Laos was launched on September 13, 2015 to address industrial salt shortfalls in Vietnam.
According to the MARD’s salt sector restructuring project, 14,500ha will be used for salt production by 2020, with an annual capacity of two million tonnes, including 8,000ha under industrial salt production, with an annual capacity of 1.3 million tonnes.
Quynh Nga & Lan Anh