Maputo — The illegal export of kitchen salt to China is causing shortages and speculation in the main markets of Quelimane, capital of the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, according to a report in Friday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
However, the provincial directorate of industry and trade is unable to say exactly how much salt is being exported by Chinese businesses.
Quelimane consumers told "Noticias" that there have been salt shortages since March, since Chinese businesses simply buy up salt directly from the salt production companies operating along the coast.
One Quelimane resident, Amelia Joaquim, said the price of salt has risen drastically, and some poor families can no longer afford to buy salt.
"Today salt is more expensive than fish", she said. "The salt producers prefer to sell all their production to the Chinese because they pay well and we Mozambicans have difficulties in paying". She thought the government should intervene to discipline the sale of salt.
Another consumer, Dalvina Alberto, claimed that the price of salt has increased by hundreds of per cent in the Quelimane markets. She said that, at the start of the year, a kilo of salt cost five meticais (about 8.4 US cents), but from June onwards a kilo was being sold for between 35 and 50 meticais.
"The Chinese businesses are buying salt for their country, and we now face serious difficulties in obtaining salt", she said.
Clementino Daudo buys salt from the producers for resale, and he was worried at the sharp hike in prices in recent months. The salt producers, he claimed, now only agree to sell their product to the Chinese.
Custódio Alberto, a salt producer in Muarua locality, says that, with the increased demand from the Chinese, many of the producers prefer to sell directly to this group because of the high prices they pay.
Furthermore the Chinese collect the salt directly from the salt pans, and thus the producers spend less on transporting the salt to market.
When approached by "Noticias", the Zambezia Provincial Director of Industry and Trade, Momad Juiz, refused to give any information, on the grounds that he is a very busy man.