ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is close to taking the lead in the global salt trade, as local rock salt of Khwera is set to be registered with international trade bodies.
This will prevent Indian traders to market Pakistani rock salt as Himalayan Pink Salt. The federal cabinet recently approved that Pakistan Minerals Development Corporation (PMDC) will be the registrant agency for rock salt produced in the country. The PMDC has finalised requirements for registration of rock salt with the Geographical Indications (GI) registry, under the management and control of Intellectual Property Organisationof Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan). After registration with IPO-Pakistan, the country will file for registration at foreign markets.
The GI rules were formulated in January this year in the country that had been pending for around two decades, but traders from neighbouring India took advantage of the vacuum and applied for GI tagging of Basmati rice in the European Union, claiming that it was an agricultural produce of India.
PMDC Managing Director retired Brig M. Iqbal Malik said Pakistan has branded the Khewra salt as “Pink Rock Salt” and its specifications were being finalised.
“Currently, rock salt was neither a lucrative commodity for exports nor was Pakistan selling the rock salt as a commercial and industrial product,” he said, adding: “Soon after the GI tagging at international markets, Pakistan will be in a position to sign long term sale contracts with buyers abroad.”
Incidentally the term, Himalayan Pink Salt has been used by traders of India for global marketing of rock salt mined from Khewra, however, after trade of non-essential items with India was suspended around two years back, salt exports to India were also suspended.
Since, there is no sale policy regarding rock salt, most of the rock salt was exported in rock form to the Middle East for exports. A Karachi-based salt trader Ahmed Khan said there is a very high global demand for rock salt, not only as table salt but even as a healing agent by massage centres of Korea and Thailand to other industrial usages.
“Most of the salt business was in the hands of small traders and investment was needed for packing and other value addition, but without any policy small traders cannot get bank loans and so on,” Mr Khan said, adding salt bought by Indian traders in UAE was re-exported in small and attractive packs at a very high price to the European Union, United States and even the far East, with labels showing that this salt was a product of the Indian Himalayas.
At the same time, international marketing by Indian traders has had an impact too; rock salt of Khewra is sold at around Rs15 – 20 per kg in wholesale markets of Rawalpindi, the closest major market from Khewra. A 1 kilo pack, after grinding is sold at around Rs25 in local markets, while the branded Khewra salt in pink packaging is priced at Rs70 per kg whereas some companies are selling the same product in attractive salt containers valued at around Rs800- 1,000 per kg.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2021