Salt makers in Can Gio tip dreary Tet because of poor crop

Unseasonal rains this year have hit salt makers in Can Gio District of Ho Chi Minh City hard. Even though the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday is approaching, most salt-making families in Can Gio dare not think about spending money on preparing for Tet celebrations because of their financial difficulties.

 
Salt makers harvest salt in Thieng Lieng Hamlet

Can Gio is a shallow coastal region. To make salt, salt makers let sea water flood the fields at high tide. The fields are edged with high mud dikes that retain sea water after the tide recedes. Over a period of several sunny days, the water evaporates leaving the dry, white salt powder to be collected for sale.

At present, most salt-making families in Can Gio have managed to harvest only between 300 tons and 600 tons of salt each. At the same time in previous years, they had stored up to 3,000 tons to 6,000 tons.

The price of salt at the same period of the last year stood at VND566 (US$0.03 ) per kilo, but has now soared to VND2,100 (US$0.12) due to the shortage.

Ms. Nam Khanh, a salt maker in Thieng Lieng Hamlet of Can Gio District said that salt makers were not happy despite the hike in salt price because they don’t have salt available to supply to the market.

She said, “We only began our production early this month. Our harvest is about two months late as out-of-season rains prevented us from building the dikes for the salt fields. At present, many salt makers have little choice but to take out loans. Debts will be repaid after the harvest.”

“We are worried a lot about the loans. We can’t repay them if there is a failure of crops tomorrow. It’s really hard to predict the weather now,” she added.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Nga, another salt maker of Thieng Lieng, said that since the beginning of the crop, her family has had to borrow about VND50 million (US$2,873) to cultivate four hectares of salt, but they have so far only harvested around 9 tons.

As well as a small harvest, Ms. Nga said production costs for this crop had also risen because wages had increased. Last year, she only paid VND1.5 (US$86) million a month for a hired worker but now the monthly wage has gone up to between VND1.8 (US$103) and VND2 million (US$115). She said, “Even if the crop turns out to be a good one, I don’t think we can make much profit.”

It is only one month before the Tet holidays but no salt makers are thinking about shopping for new clothes for their children or stocking up on special food for the family’s celebration of the New Lunar Year festival because of their current financial difficulties.

One salt maker said, “Traders won’t buy our salt after the 20th of the twelfth month of the year. We therefore have no choice but to sell most of our product, which will be harvested in the next two weeks, to the market after Tet. At present, we don’t have money for the family to prepare for the Tet festivities.” 

By My Hanh – Translated by Phuong Lan

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