Feeling the pinch: Salt farmers of AP in limbo as returns dwindle

Many salt farmers of Naupada, Srikakulam district, considered to be the salt bowl of Andhra Pradesh, urge the government to come out with an exclusive policy for the protection of the industry, which has been facing many hurdles due to frequent cyclones.
Lack of subsidy on power and diesel, and an improper transport facility have become major concerns for the salt farmers of the district. They have sought the government to extend subsidies on power, diesel and financial assistance to youngsters to start their own units in the district.

 Poor returns on investment 

At present, each farmer spends around ₹40,000 per acre, but earns only ₹70,000, and it is expected to go up to ₹1.2 lakh if the government extends support to the farmers. 
“We are unable to get even ₹1 per kg of salt, which is sold at ₹20 in the market. Lack of government support and domination of middlemen have become a bane for us,” said Y.K. Naidu, a salt farmer of Palasa constituency in Srikakulam district. 
“Salt cultivation is really sensitive with frequent natural calamities. Many farmers lost their livelihood due to cyclones such as Phailin and Hudhud. The government should extend more assistance to protect the industry,” said M. Bhaskara Rao, a farmer of Naupada.
Falling acreage
Till a few years ago, salt was produced in 25,000 acres, but it had come down to 3,000 acres with poor returns and production hurdles due to natural calamities. 
The overall production is hardly 56,000 tonnes, although the potential is more than 10 lakh tonnes in Srikakulam district. Many farmers migrated to other areas in search of livelihood, leading to drastic reduction in the farming area.
As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, Pulsus Group chairman Gedela Srinubabu did a study in the second week of October 2019, and submitted a report to the government explaining the opportunities in the salt sector. 
“Apart from the salt farmers, many people have migrated to other areas with lack of livelihood locally. The government can ensure livelihood to thousands of youngsters in no time if the salt industry is given the required impetus. It can generate more income indirectly,” said Dr. Srinubabu while sharing his study details with the media here.
Seasoning up
According to him, Mulapeta and Bhavanapadu of Srikakulam district, and Bhogapuram and Pusapatirega of Vizianagaram districts are the right locations for setting up more salt units.
Each unit requires at least ₹20 lakh initial investment. 
Financial assistance, loans, training, and marketing facilities will ensure more people enter the salt industry, which is mostly controlled by the corporates.

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