Business News of 2002-09-03

Huge Salt Export Market awaits Ghana

There is a huge demand for Ghana’s quality salt in the ECOWAS market and elsewhere. It is estimated for instance, that Nigeria alone requires some 600,000 metric tonnes of salt; sadly enough Ghana produces only 240,000 metric tones annually. This came to light at a symposium in Accra for iodated salt producers organised by the Nutrition Division of the Ministry of Health. Speaker after speaker emphasised the need for the production, distribution, consumption and enforcement of law on iodated salt.

Addressing the symposium, Leon K. Appenteng, Managing Director of Panbros Salt Industries Ltd, said there is a large market for iodated salt in the ECOWAS, which presents a great opportunity for growth in the salt industry in Ghana. This can become a major foreign exchange earner for the country as well as contribute significantly to Ghana’s GDP and balance of trade. Appenteng, who is also president of the National Salt Producers Association of Ghana (NASPAG), noted that the salt industry had received a further boost by President Kufuor’s focus on the industry.

He called for concerted effort by government to promote the production of iodated salt, by providing support to salt producers in the form of concessionary loans for the acquisition of machinery and other requisite inputs; and urged the government to enforce the Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) Law, as a means of eliminating the possibility of selling non-iodated salt for human and animal consumption and to help realise the goals of the Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) programme.

Appenteng recalled that in September 1995, NASPAG was invited by the Ministry of Health to serve on the National Salt Iodisation Committee, to ensure that everybody receives an adequate amount of iodine in their dietary intake, which recommended the fortification of salt with iodine.

He said it was hoped that by the year 2000(from 1995) the elimination of IDD would have been achieved, but this has not been so, effectively, albeit with some improvements. He observed with concern that the enforcement of the law that was passed in 1996 has not been effective.

The law provides that all packing materials carry the product designation content, amount of iodine, net weight, date of manufacture, storage procedure, etc. Appenteng said to support salt producers, UNICEF in Ghana initially coordinated the sourcing of machinery and supply of potassium iodate, highly subsidized to both small and large-scale operators to achieve the iodisation programme.

J.G.A. Armah, IDD Control Programme Coordinator, gave trends in sales and consumption of iodated salt and some barriers. He said starting with about two local brands in 1995, there are now 15 local brands of salt and a few foreign ones.

He said many local brands tended to be sold in particular regions throughout the Ghana. He said to make progress towards eliminating IDD as a public health policy, 95 percent or more of major markets in the country are expected to sell iodated salt but studies indicate slow progress.

Armah regretted that non-iodated salt is still found in the markets alongside the iodated ones. Non-iodated salt was found in 30 major district markets, surveyed, except five in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Upper West regions.

Research shows that iodated salt of almost all brands showed iodine contents that from levels lower than those on the label, to ones with higher than the stated levels. He said at the current rate of consumption, Ghana will reach 90 per cent level of adequacy in 2008 or 100 percent in seven to eight years (2010).

Further research shows that iodated salt consumption is the lowest in Eastern and Volta Regions. Reasons given include-not available, expensive, never heard about it, don’t know its importance, used to local (raw) salt, no reason, etc.

Speaking on the effects of food preparation/cooking procedures on iodated salt, Prof E. Asibey-Berko of the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, said WHO has recommended that for Ghana, salt be iodised adding that iodised salt prevents IDD problems such as goiter, spontaneous abortions, cretinism with metal retardation, etc.

Prof. Asibey-Berko said there are some local factors which cause iodine loss in salt. They include possible high impurity in iodated salt; high moisture; high humidity and ambient temperature; long travel distance; high light exposure. He added that excessive cooking may cause iodine loss in salt. Participants were stunned to learn that cooking, light exposure, uncovered or exposed salt, coloured salt and wet salt all contribute to loss of iodine.

Source: High Street Journal
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