Tax-free toxic salt imports!

Vested groups are importing toxic salt or sodium sulfate in the name of sodium chloride causing health hazards for humans in addition to affecting the raw leather of sacrificial animals, The country's salt producers, worried over the import of toxic salt (soda) ahead of the Eid-ul-Azha, have sought intervention of agencies concerned to protect the raw hide of the sacrificial animals across the country.

Sector insiders said, the country needs an additional 2.50 lakh metric tons of salt to preserve the leather of the sacrificial animals during the period of the largest holy festival. The demand of the salt (sodium chloride) will increase this year because the number of sacrificial animals has increased significantly in the recent years.

Mentioning that rawhide worth Tk 360 crore is being wasted due to inadequate supply of the pure salt every year, they fear that this year the loss may touch Tk 400 crore. According to the information of Bangladesh Salt Owners Association, the demand for salt during the period of Eid-ul-Azha is 2.50 lakh tons.
The annual demand of salt is 25 lakh metric tons in the country of which some 2.50 lakh metric tons is utilized for leather preservation. During the season of Eid-ul-Azha, some 1.0 lakh metric tons of salt is needed for the purpose.

Moreover, the tannery owners are using additional 1.0 lakh tons of salt every to preserve raw leather. Besides, the tannery owners also need an additional 50 thousand tons of salt for finished leather. However, such misleading information is a concern for the stakeholders of the salt industry. They have underscored the need for accurate data for saving the salt industry in the country.

Stakeholders said, some 60 thousand hectares of land were utilized for salt production. Of the total land, the government has acquired some 15 thousand hectares for power generation as well as developing infrastructure in the recent years resulting in lower salt production in the country. The BSCIC ignored the calculation and provided inappropriate data, they claimed. As a result, some 5 lakh metric tons of salt is entering in the country through illegal channels, they added.
Nurul Kabir, president of Bangladesh Salt Owners Association said that the BSCIC information related to salt production and demand is imaginary and unrealistic. The vested groups are importing almost 5 lakh tons of toxic salt (soda) and sodium sulfate due to the misinformation of the BSCIC, he further said. Referring that owners of some 300 salt plants have lost their market for such illegal import of toxic salt, Kabir said they have already informed the Industries and Commerce Ministry as well as BSCIC, but have still not got any solution.

He urged the Prime Minister to resolve the problem for the sake of saving the salt producers in the country.Md Delwar Hossain, president of Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchants Association said, salt price increases ahead of Eid-ul-Azha every year. This year, the salt crisis may be visible due to higher demand, he predicted.

The consumption of salt is lower than the demand in the country, he claimed. Salt price may increase ahead of the festival due to lower consumption, he added. Already, some vested groups are trying to create artificial crisis of salt to attain higher profits, he also claimed. However, the sodium sulfate which is recognized as salt is imported at zero percent tax. The unethical traders are importing such toxic chemical and selling it in the local market.

As a result, the government is incurring huge loss every year. On the other hand, the salt producers are failing to get the local market. The country’s salt production has declined in recent years due to natural disasters. Against this backdrop, the government allowed import of salt tax free to meet the local demand.