The production of salt in Ghana started in the 19th century and it is the major economic activity of the people of Ada in the Dangme East District of the Greater Accra Region.
In an interview with the Head of Administration of the Songor Salt Project, a government-owned salt processing company, Mr. Alfred Adjonyoh, he said “the salt industry in the country is not conducive”. This is because “there is no common platform and common policy regarding pricing”.
The Songor Salt Project, though, has the potential of producing 150,000 tons of salt annually, it currently produces only 60,000 tons of salt, a slight increase in last year’s 46,000 tons. This forms 10% of the potential of the project which stands at 1.4 million metric tons of salt annually. The country could earn over GH¢4 billion annually when it produces salt at its full capacity.
This under-utilized potential of the Songor Salt Project was revealed during a field trip by Ghanaian and Ugandan journalists as part of the Media Training Programme organized by the Revenue Watch Institute and Thomson Reuters Foundation on January 27, 2011.
The Songor Salt Project produces salt to feed neigbouring countries including Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger. The market in Nigeria which at the moment is the largest has been captured by Brazil due to its high quality of salt. The reason Ghana cannot compete with Brazil is not far-fetched. The country lacks the basic infrastructure to refine its salt and to increase production to meet market demands.
Mr. Adjonyoh estimated that the Songor Salt Project has an infrastructure gap of at least $1 million. This amount is needed to among other things reconstruct dikes, construct roads for easy accessibility and procure heavy duty equipment.
The salt industry employs more than 1,000 people, almost the population of Ada, who produce salt on small scale using rudimentary technologies like rake and broken calabash to gather salt. The local people without any form of business capital support are compelled to produce as low as 15 bags per day. Regardless of low production, salt produced by the local people is also exported to neigbouring countries including Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Most of their customers are also in the Northern Regions and in Kumasi.
It is against the backdrop of these inherent challenges that Mr. Albert Adinortey Apetorgbor, a vibrant community activist, advocated for the bringing together of splintered and scattered producers under cooperatives. This will enable increased production and good market price due to the ability to access loans from banks for business expansion.
It is important to stress that “white gold” is the only renewable natural resource that could enhance the livelihoods of generations. It is as such imperative that government steps in to increase and enhance local production. Salt contributes more than 70% of internally generated funds (IGFs) of the Dangme East District Assembly.
There is no development plan to guide the salt industry and it is not regulated. Mr. Francis Azinah-Koluedor, an experienced local producer asserted that “the environmental concerns are there, but we close our eyes on it”. This glaring revelation gives the indication that there is no blueprint for ensuring sustainable and healthy salt winning industry at the local level in the country.
It is seemingly the case that the salt industry is not of priority to governments because of its meager contribution to GDP. But the salt industry creates large employment and provides capital for other economic activities like farming and fishing. It is significant that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources develops the salt industry to complement the contributions of natural resources to poverty reduction.
By: Stephen Yeboah,