Kabul-based iodised salt factory seeks govt support

KABUL (Pajhwok): Officials of an iodised salt factory say they could supply table salt to all provinces if the government invests in the plant in Kabul.

Established in 2003, the “Ayenda-i-Darakhshan” (Bright Future) Factory has the capacity to produce up to 200 tonnes of salt a day. Earlier, officials would import the commodity but they invested $200,000 to start own production.

Mir Agha Sharif, the owner, complained the government had awarded salt mining contracts to individuals who had factories. “Our business has declined because every salt factory owner cannot afford to win a contract.”

He recalled: “In the past, our factory would produce 200 tonnes of salt, but when more plants were established, we started producing about four tonnes of iodised salt a day.”

He said his factory produced good-quality salt and never received any complaint from clients in Kabul, Parwan, Maidan Wardak, Logar and Bamyan provinces.

The factory owner said they produced salt in line with standards set by the Public Health Ministry.  They mixed one kilogram of iodine with 18 tonnes of salt. A kilogram of iodine cost $50, he added.

Dr. Mohammad Hashim Wahaj, who runs a private hospital, said iodised salt was healthier than ordinary salt. “Iodised salt prevents dangerous diseases and helps in physical growth and overcomes iodine deficiency.”

The Ayenda-i-Darakhshan factory owner said the Ministry of Mines awarded salt excavation contracts to a handful of individual who enjoyed a monopoly over raw salt.

Sharif said these individuals supplied the mined salt to their own factories and left other factories struggling with raw material.

But Mines Ministry spokesman Mohammad Rafi Rafiq said it was up to the contractor as to whom he should supply the excavated salt and his ministry had no right to intervene.    

He said import of raw salt was not the country’s interest because they had to pay 40 percent duty on imported salt.

He also acknowledged salt deposits were mined in an unprofessional way and as a result, most of the excavated salt was damaged and mixed with unwanted substances.

Sharif said Andkhoi salt mine in Faryab and Namakab mine in Takhar contained sodium chloride, sand and rocks. He said more plants should be established to filter dangerous materials from salt excavated from the two mines.

He said the government should provide long term loans with low interest rate to businessmen as the current interest rate was not affordable.

He said in other countries, governments provided long term loans to factory owners against low interest rate. “In Afghanistan, there is no trend of healthy competition and the government does not support small businesses.”

Sharif said: “We have established this factory to serve our people and contribute to the national economy.” The factory’s production declined due to the absence of government support.

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