Farmers, refiners demand end to import of edible salt as industrial salt

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Offline Tamanna Sharmin Chowdhury

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Salt farmers and refiners on Sunday demanded that the government check the import of edible salt in the guise of industrial salt to protect the domestic industry.

They made the request in a public hearing organised by the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission at its conference room in the capital.

Farmers and refiners alleged that they were losing business to the importers of industrial salt due to the loopholes in the government rules as importers were importing the item under duty facility as industrial raw materials and selling it in the local market illegally.

As per the import policy guidelines, the commercial import of salt is prohibited but the import of the item as raw material for the industries is allowed.

Refiners said that when the government allowed them to import salt considering any emergency situation, they had to pay 89.32 per cent duty.

But if the item is imported under the commercial letter of credit as industrial raw material, the rate of duty is 37 per cent, they said.

They alleged that a huge quantity of salt imported under duty benefit was being sold in the local market.

Nurul Kabir, president of Bangladesh Laban Mill Malik Samity, alleged that a huge quantity of edible salt was imported in the country under miss-declaration as sodium sulphate and a quarter of businesses were selling the salt in the local market.

‘Salt refiners are becoming sick as edible salt is entering the country with miss-declaration as sodium sulphate under duty facility,’ he said.

Kabir demanded lifting the bar on salt import and bringing down the duty structure equivalent to the item imported as industrial raw materials.

The duty structure should be the same for the import of both the edible and industrial salt, he said.

Paritosh Kanti Saha, president of Narayanganj Laban Mill Malik Samity, demanded allowing import of salt for all and reducing duty equivalent to industrial salt.

Mostafa Kamal, president of Bangladesh Laban Chashi  Kallyan Parishad, opposed the proposals put forward by refiners saying that their proposals to open import with reduced duty structure were nothing but a plot to destroy the local salt industry and livelihood of nearly 5 lakh marginalised people.

He demanded checking import of edible salt under the declaration of industrial raw materials and increasing duty on import of sodium sulphate to protect the miss declaration.

In the hearing, the government and refiners produced conflicting data on the demand for salt in the country.

According to the refiners, the demand for edible salt is 12 lakh tonnes per year while industrial salt is 12 lakh tonnes.

According to the government estimation, the yearly demand for salt including edible and industrial is 17.15 lakh tonnes.

Tapan Kanti Saha, chairman of the BTTC, presided over the public hearing.

He said that they would send a set of recommendations on the event to the commerce ministry and industries ministry within a short time.