Salt producer Garam Indonesia plans to build salt evaporation ponds in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, with an estimated investment of Rp 2 trillion ($197 million).
The saltern is expected to produce 900,000 to 1 million tons of salt per year. Slamet Untung Irredenta, president director of Garam Indonesia, said the construction covering 9,000 hectares, is expected to be completed in 2015.
“We hope the land clearing can be completed this year,” Slamet said.
On Wednesday, Garam Indonesia executives met officials from the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry and Kupang regent Ayub Titu Eki to discuss making East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) a hub for salt production in the country. NTT is one of Indonesia’s poorest regions.
“We will help accelerate the acquisition of the 9,000 hectares of land for Garam,” Ayub said.
Locations currently producing salt include Madura in East Java, Bima in West Nusa Tenggara, Jeneponto in South Sulawesi and the north Java coast towns of Cirebon, Indramayu, Rembang, Tuban and Gresik.
Despite having the second-longest coastline in the world, Indonesia is a net importer of salt but Slamet said that when the production facility is up and running the country would no longer need to import the product.
Adhi S. Lukman, the chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (Gapmmi), said Indonesia needs 1.2 million tons of salt for household consumption each year, of which 900,000 is produced locally. The 1.8 million tons required by industry is all imported.
Salt imports have previously been a source of political tension.
Former Marine and Fishery Minister Fadel Muhammad believed Indonesia should be able to produce enough to meet domestic demand, while former Trade Ministry Mari Elka Pangestu argued that the immediate needs of salt must be fulfilled through imports.
Currently, to meet the supply gap, Indonesia imports salt, including from Australia. Last year the government announced salt imports would end in 2013 as the country took on more production capacity.
In the current economic masterplan (MP3EI), Bali and the Nusa Tenggara provinces are identified as hubs for tourism and national food support.