This is a descriptive case study which endeavored to find the profile of the salt farm owners and farmers, their salt production characteristics in terms of size of farm used in salt production, material used for salt beds and use of the salt produced. Additionally, this also found the warehousing and packaging practices as well as the constraints and challenges aced by the salt farm owners and farmers.
Results of the study indicate that the salt farm owners and farmers are males, between 41-55 years old married and belong to large households. The salt production area is 10 hectares or more, broken ceramics, plastic and cement mixed with lime are used to line the crystallizers, and salt produced is intended for human consumption, fertilizer, as ingredient for food processing and for industrial purposes.
Findings of the study also revealed that majority of the salt farmers did not own a warehouse to store their salt and used sacks to package the salt.
It is recommended that the Occidental Mindoro Salt Industry Road Map be translated into reality by providing government support to the industry in the form of research and development projects and programs on salt production, post harvest , logistics and marketing strategies, provision of loan facility to augment capitalization and encourage industry-academe and government line agencies collaboration for an inclusive Occidental Mindoro Salt Industry revitalization .
Sodium chloride or common salt, or halite is a white crystalline chemical compound with the chemical formula of NaCl.It is an abundant mineral employed in the manufacturing industries, agricultural and water-conditioning uses. It is also commonly used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer and a daily diet requirement for humans.
Occidental Mindoro is an island province having one of the longest coastlines in the Philippines. It was once one of the biggest salt producers in the country. In 1990, it produced and contributed about 60,000 metric tons of the 338,000MT or 18% of the country’s total salt production (Business Mirror, 2017). Over the years, salt production in the province declined due to a number of factors which include erratic weather patterns due to climate change, production losses, poor logistics, poor production and organizational management, water pollution, lack of research and development activities on salt productivity and few policies in place to support the industry.
Today, while Occidental Mindoro still supplies salt in the neighbouring provinces in Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, only 12 percent of the national salt requirement comes from the province with the biggest chunk of the demand supplied by imported salts (Duque, 2019). Seeing the potential of the salt industry to help drive the local economy of the province, a multi-sectoral Occidental Mindoro Salt Council was created in 2018 which pieced together a roadmap for the Occidental Mindoro Salt industry with the end view of developing a salt industry that meets the domestic and international standards in order to provide equitable benefits by using socially responsible and environment-friendly practices.
The roadmap envisioned that by 2022, the province of Occidental Mindoro shall be known as the Salt Capital of the Philippines producing high quality salt products at competitive prices for the domestic market catering to the consumers, food processors, industrial and agricultural users. (DTI, 2018). Occidental Mindoro State College is a member of the Council having been tasked to undertake researches related to the salt industry which includes salt quality analyses, salt production cultural practices, and salt farmers’ behavioral attitudes in salt harvest and optimization studies on salt. To date, are sparse baseline data are in place to establish the quality, volume per unit area, and salinity of supply water used for salt produced across the existing salt farms. Moreover, there is a dearth of data on the challenges and constraints experienced by the salt farm owners and farmers which could be used to design programs and projects to help revitalize this shrinking industry in the Province.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Profile of the Salt Farm Owners/Salt Farmers
In terms of age, the results of the study revealed that 50% (26) of the respondents belonged to the age range of from 41-55, while 18 (34.6%) . A very small percentage at 1.9% of the respondents is aged 70 years and above. These findings suggest that middle aged to advanced aged farmers/farm owners dominated the respondents. Focus group discussion results indicate that younger generations of salt farmers or their young family members see no future in salt making. These realities may leave no one to pass on the salt making skills and could push the long time tradition of salt farming into obscurity.
The salt industry in Occidental Mindoro is largely male dominated at 82.7 % . Women constitute only 17.3% of the respondents. It is not uncommon however that family members both male and female share in the salt harvest chore at the crystallizers. Salt harvest as revealed by the respondents is a very labor-intensive activity in salt making. Hauling the harvest from the crystallizing ponds is considered a task for males.
Most of the salt farm owners/farmers are married (80.8%) with 9.6 % each as single or widow/widower. For most of the respondents, salt making is their way of life and source of income for the family. Some have brought their families close to the slat farms especially during the harvest season which happen during the months of February, March, April and May.
Salt production Characteristics
In solar evaporation method of salt production, only 10% of the total salt production area consists of the crystallizers were salt is harvested. Ninety percent of the area is used as supply and concentration ponds where water is pumped into for subsequent evaporation until a saturated brine is produced that is transferred through wooden gates into the crystallizing ponds.
In terms of salt production area farmed, 46.15% of the respondents have from more than one hectare to less than or equal to 10 hectares. About 17.3% have less than one hectare of salt production area. In the salt making industry these are called the marginal salt farmers. Those having salt production areas of from 25 to more than 50 hectares constitute 19.2% of the respondents. As a major salt producer for local salt, Occidental Mindoro is home to some of the biggest salt producing families in the country.
As to type of salt beds majority or 94.2% said that they used broken ceramics or clay ceramics to line their crystallizing ponds. A small minority revealed that they use either plastic, cement or cement mixed with apog (lime) in their crystallizers.
When asked on the use of the salt they produce, all of the respondents expressed that their produce is intended for human consumption, as fertilizer (34.6%) that is being sold to the Philippine Coconut Authority in bulk to fertilize coconut trees, as food processing ingredient (78.8%) such as fermented fish paste (bagoong) and fish sauce (patis) dried fish and other food processing methods. Moreover.7 % cited that their salt is used for industrial purposes such as manufacture of soap, detergent , glass and other industrial products. Lastly, 3.8 percent said that the salt they produced is used for human consumption, fertilizer, industrial additive and in food processing.
Storage and Packaging Practices
The storage and packaging constitute essential post harvest practices in salt making . Sixty five percent of the respondents cited that they do not have a warehouse to store their salt while 34.6% said that they own a warehouse in which they store their salt harvest.
In terms of packaging material used, 84.6 % of the respondents said that they use second hand sacks to pack their salt harvest, while 11.5 % use woven basket (kaing) to store their salt. A minority of the respondents (3.8%) said that they dump their salt on the ground between the salt beds which is lined with either plastic, canvas or used sack
Production Constraints Experienced by Salt Farm Owners and farmers
A checklist was prepared enumerating the problems encountered by the salt farmers in Occidental Mindoro. The items were borne out of several focus group discussions conducted with both salt farm owners and salt farmers. The common problems were coded and clustered under a common theme which was refined to capture the most common challenges and constraints experienced by the salt farm owners and farmers.
The challenges and constraints are resented in Table 4. Climate change and variable weather patterns is commonly experienced by the 94.2% of the respondents. Solar salt evaporation is heavily dependent on the temperature, humidity, solar radiation and other weather condition parameters, unpredictable weather patterns brought by climate change dealt a strong blow to the salt industry in Occidental Mindoro as reveled by the respondents. Intermittent rain has also largely affected the salt production season. Beyond competition, the biggest struggle salt t producers face in salt making is climate change. Sudden rains in summer & extended wet season seriously affect production.
Other top challenges faced by the Occidental Mindoro salt farmers is limited government support to the local salt industry (100%). One of the respondents cited that while the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has initiated efforts to help the Occidental Mindoro salt industry it has not trickled down to the marginal salt producers. There were very few local initiatives to help the shrinking salt industry in the province.
Additionally, the absence of facilities to ascertain product quality (94.2%) , limited research on salt production (61.5%) limited post harvest technology (78.8%) ,logistics and marketing (78.8%) , lack of capitalization (76.9%) and limited post harvest facility constitutes the major challenges experienced by the salt industry. Product quality and quality assurance are crucial to salt production since percentage composition of the salt is essential to determine its fitness for use in industrial manufacturing which comprise the biggest salt demand. With the high logistical costs, it is not conducive for small slat farm owners to market their produce to nearby provinces.
The lack of post harvest facility and technology has not been fully addressed by the USAID grant of a salt washing plant in Magsaysay since not all salt farmers have access to the facility and its technology.
An utter lack of research on salt production and lack of capitalization force the farmers to stick to their age-old traditional salt farming methods. The lack of capitalization shove the farmers in an endless cycle of debts which often force them to downsize or fold down altogether.
Based from the findings of the study, the following are concluded:
- The salt farm owners/farmers in Occidental Mindoro are male, with advanced age, married and belong to large households.
- Majority of the salt farmers own or work in about 10 hectares of salt farm, use broken ceramics for salt beds, and produce salt for human consumption, fertilizer, food processing and industrial use.
- Most do not own a warehouse to store their salt and use sacks primarily to package their produce either for storage or for selling to traders or to their cooperative; and
- The most prevalent constraints faced by salt farm owners and farmers in Occidental Mindoro include climate change and unpredictable weather patterns heavily affecting the salt production season, lack of government support to the local salt industry, high cost of logistics, lack of capitalization, absence of facility to determine product quality and lack of post harvest facilities and technology.
- Affam M., Asamoah D.N., 2011. Economic Potential of Salt Mining in Ghana Towards the Oil Find. Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences 3(5):448-456
- Acedo, Celia E., Hontucan, Royanni Miel. 2017. PH Salt Industry Reeling from Climate Change. Conference of the Philippines Population Association.
- Atkinson, Karie. 2011. Same Scale Salt Producers Unite to Strengthen Local Production in the Southern Philippines. IDD newsletter, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; Geneva, Switzerland
- Business Mirror, 2017. Occidental Midnoro boosting salt indsyutry through new technology. https://businessmirror.com.ph/occidental-mindoro-boosting-salt-industry-through-new-tech
- Hossain, Shahadat M., Hossain, Zakir M., Chowdhury Sayedur Rahman. 2006. An Analysis of Economic and Environmental Issues Associated with Sea Salt Production in Bangladesh and Thailand Cost. International Journal of ecology and Environmental Science 32: 159-172
- Duque, John Arnold, 2019. Personal interview