Following an order from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has directed Afar Salt Processing Company Plc to install salt cleaning and grinding machines in the next two months. The machines will enable the company to produce standardised salt, as it was criticised for having poor sanitation and hygiene.
The move comes three weeks after the company was banned by Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration & Control Authority (FMHACA) for distributing below standard salt into the market. The company, located in Afdera, 645km away from Addis Abeba, gets salt from producers. It directs over half of the salt distribution in the country.
FMHACA banned the company a month ago after concerns over a shortage of iodine observed in its products.
“The action of FMHACA was surprising and unconditional,” said Sadiq Mohammed, board director of the company. “Although the Authority put a ban on us, we haven’t stopped production except having some difficulties in distributing the salt outside Afar.”
Following the ban, a committee, headed by Yifru Berhan (Prof), Minister of Health, was formed by the PM’s office from the Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) and the Ministry of Trade (MoT) and MoH. Later, the committee reversed the decision of FMHACA, saying it is immature as the company had been given a grace period to import the machines for a year until January 2017.
The company, which was founded five months ago with an investment capital of half a billion Birr, claims that it has already started an effort to import machines from China but declined to comment on the cost of the machines.
“We had already installed an iodine processing machine a week ago,” said Sadiq. “The remaining machine which cleans, grinds, dries and packs will be shipped before the deadline approaches.”
The poor quality of salt in the Ethiopian market has been a primary concern, causing iodine disorder in the society, according to FMHACA. The real coverage of iodine is no more than a quarter of the population.
Besides Afar Salt Processing, which is owned by Kadaba, an association formed by over 500 salt producers, and Seid Yasin, a known investor in the salt market, the government has also urged other salt factories to install machines in the coming months.
Afar Salt Production, another company and commonly known as Ezana Salt, its major shareholder being Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (Effort) Investments, is among the companies instructed to set up cleaning and grinding machines within a year. About eight months of the grace period has already passed.
Although these companies do not own the proper machines to produce standardised salt, they believe that producing standardised salt is possible without the machines.
“Since we clean the salt in the pond, there is no way it is hazardous to health,” explains Seife Kidane, advisor to Kadaba and Afar Salt Processing. “Nonetheless, we will install the machinery in the coming month, nine months ahead of the grace period.”
A representative of Ezana shares Seifu’s argument.
“Even though we don’t have these machines, we supply iodised and healthy salt to the market,” said a senior manager at Ezana.
Research done by the government indicates that real coverage of adequately iodised salt in Ethiopia is 26pc. While the price increase may make increasing iodised salt coverage more difficult, the lack of proper machinery in factories for iodization is also a big factor.
Two weeks ago, in a meeting held at Capital Hotel, the government urged salt factories to install proper machines within a period of a year. More than half of the salt produced in the country was not up to standard, indicated a study presented during the meeting.
Besides Ezana and Afar Salt Production, Dobby and SVS are the major players in Afar Regional State’s salt processing market. And Kadaba, a shareholder in Afar Salt Processing, is a major salt producer in Afar. It is located in Afdera, and produces 90pc of the country’s salt demand and supplies to Afar Salt Processing and other companies.
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