Ganjam: The nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus for 21 days has triggered labour shortage among salt farmers in Ganjam district, severely impacting the harvest of salt in the district.
For salt farmers, who were in the midst of harvesting or were getting ready to harvest, the lockdown has spelt hardship. As farmers are not allowed to step out from their house, they are staring at huge losses this year too with no way out to harvest the salt in their fields.
As per reports, the central government has 1,472 acres of salt farming land alongside Ganjam-Humma National Highway-16. The Humma and Binchhanapalli Salt Producing and Selling Cooperation Association have taken around 729 acres of land on lease for salt production.
Local farmers are harvesting salt in these lands. The salt harvesting usually starts in between March to May.
During the monsoon, the salt farming area is submerged with sea water. As the sea water finally begins to recede in October, the farmers move in and begin the elaborate process of salt farming. First, they dig wells to pump out highly saline groundwater from the lake of brine that lies 40 feet below the crust.
The pumped out brine is then directed into square-shaped salt pans where the natural process of evaporation works to leave behind precious white crystals of salt. Getting these pans ready for this process is tough work. The farmers stamp and level the earth with their bare feet to ensure that the tightly packed soil doesn’t allow the brine to seep back. Some dry branches are thrown in, around which salt crystals form.
With the salt fields slowly turning silvery white with raw salt, the harvest season officially begins in summer. In areas like Laximipur, Maurpada, Niladripur, Khatuakuda, Kantiagad, Binchhanipali, Puintola and Suryanaryanpur the salt are already stocked in the farming lands.
But, following the lockdown, farmers are not able to go to their fields and carry out the salt extraction process. This has spread tension among the farmers who were worried on the harvest of salt from their salt fields.
Notably, the salt farmers have been suffering from huge loss since couple of years due to natural disasters like floods and storm.
Salt farmers Bbrudaban Sahoo of Puintola village and Judhistir Reddi of Laxmipur village demanded the government to take immediate steps to save their traditional occupation. They also demanded necessary compensation for their loss.