Indonesia has been in a salt crisis since the past two months, after unusually long wet season disrupted domestic supplies of the seasoning and doubled its prices in local markets.
Strict controls on salt imports were imposed two years ago, aiming to protect the local salt producers. The government only allows limited amount of industrial salt — which contains 97 percent or more of sodium chloride — to be imported, aiming for local producers to supply end consumers with lower grade salt.
That arrangement, however, has run aground as adverse weather has been reported in the main salt-farming areas, decreasing the yield. Indonesian salt is produced from the evaporation of seawater.
Farmers in Sumenep and Pamekasan districts of East Java — Indonesia’s largest salt producers — said they now see long lines of trucks near their fields, with traders bidding for salt. This does not happen during normal market times.
Mat Riyanto, a salt farmer in Sumenep said the farmers have been selling salt at up to Rp 3.4 million ($255) a ton in the past four weeks, that compared with the normal price of Rp 500,000 a ton.
“We [now] often have to harvest salt two or three days earlier than we normally do,” Mat said on Friday (28/07).
“Usually, we can get 20 tons, but because of the early harvest, we can only get one ton. Still, that’s better than rains destroying all salt.”
East Java Governor Soekarwo said earlier in the week that last year’s harvest was also bad, making farmers unable to stock the mineral.
Only 118,055 tons of salt were produced last year, down by 95 percent from 2.9 million tons a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Indonesia country consumes around 3.6 million tons of salt annually.
The government will soon allow imports of salt for consumers.
“The government in the near future will start importing salt for consumption to satisfy the demand. The shortage in some areas has led to the increase in prices,” Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said earlier this week.
The minister said Indonesia is likely to import salt from India and Australia, which source it from mines.
Under a 2015 ministerial regulation, state-owned Garam will be the only entity that can import the salt.