Ethiopia: Salt Producers Join Hands to Curb Iodine Deficiency

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In a bid to join hands and curb challenges in the industry, close to 15 iodized-salt producing companies have formed an association.

The Ethiopian Iodized Salt Producers Association, which was under formation for the last 12 months by the Ethiopian Food, Beverage, & Pharmaceutical Industry Development Institute, was launched two weeks ago.

The main goal of the Association is to introduce iodized-salt to the public, generate revenue, expand the industry and control the supply of non-iodized salt to the market.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 small, medium and large individuals and organisations engaged in salt production in Ethiopia.

The formation of the Association will play a significant role in improving the supply of iodized salt in the market, according to Bedlu Assefa, director of Vegetable & Spice Processing Development at the Institute, which was established in 2013 to provide all-round support to the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industry.

Ethiopia has mandated the supply of iodized salt as it is essential for healthy brain development in fetuses and young children. Iodine deficiency negatively affects the health of women, as well as economic productivity and the quality of life of adults.

According to the World Health Organization, all food-grade salt used in households and food processing should be fortified with iodine as a safe and effective strategy for the prevention and control of iodine-deficiency disorders in populations living in both stable or emergency settings. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Deficiency also causes thyroid gland problems, including endemic goitre. A nationwide study conducted in Ethiopia revealed that the total goitre prevalence in schoolchildren was 39.9pc.

When fully operational, the Association will give certification to those who are involved in the production of iodized salt.

The first job of the Association is creating awareness for consumers about the use of iodised salt and increased production of the product in Ethiopia, according to Girma Tekelemariam, general manager of SVS Salt Production Plc and president of the new association.

The latest report from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute shows that the national salt coverage was 85pc, but only about 26pc of the households were getting an adequate amount of iodised salt.

Girma also believes that the Association will play a significant role in building the capacity of the industry.

"The sector is in the infant stage," he said. "The new development will have a positive effect on improving our capacity for production and the quality of the product."

Tigist Fisseha, a consultant and an attorney with over a decade of experience working with the International Labour Organisation and Ethiopian Employers Federation, supports the formation of the Association. She also suggests the members participate actively and attentively in achieving their goal.

"As an initial move, the Association should mainly create awareness among the public using different media platforms about the use of iodized salt," she added.

Recently the institute has formed associations of industries that manufacture foods and beverages, including Edible Oil Manufacturers, Fruits Vegetables and Spices Producers & Floor Producer Associations.

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