Some unscrupulous importers are selling industrial salt as edible salt, thereby harming consumers and taking the market share of local producers.
Confidence Salt, the first brand to bring iodised salt in the Bangladeshi market, is now losing its share to counterfeit products.
"Some unscrupulous businessmen are selling substandard salt by duplicating our packets, and thus, our sales have decreased by 20-25 percent over the last two years," Sadiul Islam, managing director of the company, told The Business Standard.
He said they did not get any remedy even after complaining about the matter to the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI).
"Afsara Agro and Food Products is selling salt in the district level under the name of 'Sristi' by using packets with design similar to Confidence Salt," read the complaint submitted to the BSTI.
The government agency issues permissions for manufacturing and marketing of salt.
Asked about any progress regarding the complaint, BSTI Deputy Director Md Reazul Haque said they work on the standard of the salt and they do not have any legal authority to look into whether packets are duplicated by others.
The BSTI examines the standard of salt produced and marketed by the companies, he added.
The proof of substandard salt sales first appeared in a letter by the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
Expressing concern over the dominance of substandard salt, BSCIC wrote the letter to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) last year.
The letter mentioned that different industries import sodium chloride or edible salt with the declaration for sodium sulphate and glauber salt – which they then sell as edible salt.
Sodium chloride is does not meet the requirements because it is not iodised.
The development put the BSCIC and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) into a confrontation.
While the BSCIC wants a ban on salt imports by misusing bond facilities, the BTMA has called upon the commerce ministry to take measures to ensure hassle-free imports of sodium chloride – a widely used ingredient in the textile industry.
BSCIC Chairman Md Mostaque Hassan said a group of industrialists is importing industrial salt beyond their requirements and selling that in the local market as edible salt.
He added local salt producers will not sustain in the competition with importers due to the big gap in the cost of production. "We are trying to solve this."
Officials of salt producing companies said most of the sodium chloride and glauber salt are imported from China for a maximum cost of Tk11-12 per kg.
On the other hand, local salt producers buy crude salt from farmers at Tk8-9 per kg. The cost more than doubles after the processing and marketing of the product. As a result, local brands cannot compete with the unscrupulous businesses that market substandard salt.
The National Salt Policy 2016 allows the use of sodium chloride as raw material for producing some chemical items including caustic soda and chlorine.
Besides, salt is used in soap and detergent industries as raw material, dying clothes and jute products, and preserving rawhide.
In a letter on January 15, the Bangladesh Salt Mill Owners Association called upon the commerce ministry to restrict all types of salt imports for protecting the local salt industry.
It further said the Bangladesh Investment and Development Authority (Bida) and several other government agencies issue permission to import sodium sulphate for producing caustic soda and for use in different export industries.
The salt producers called for making it mandatory for Bida to inform the industries ministry, the national salt committee, and the commerce ministry before permitting salt imports so that importers cannot bring in the item beyond the industrial requirements.
Md Nurul Kabir, president of Bangladesh Salt Mills Owners Association, said, "Different industries and chemical producing companies are importing salt beyond their requirements and selling those in the market as edible salt.
"Farmers will be affected if the salt locally produced remains unsold. Eventually, they will lose their interest in salt cultivation."