Seasonal rawhide traders fear that the soaring prices of salt, an essential ingredient for the preservation of rawhides, will affect their capacity to preserve the valuable hides for long.
Leather and tannery business people also expressed concern over high salt price, saying that many rawhide traders might not use sufficient amount of salt in the preservation process which will ultimately cause many of the valuable hides to get rotten. They also said a lot of rawhides were damaged last year for the same reason.
According to the traders, the price of a 74-kilogram sack of salt has increased by Tk 200-350. A sack of salt was selling at Tk 1400-1450 in the city though the price was less than Tk 1,000 a few weeks ago.
Haji Faruk, general secretary of Laban Malik Samity, said salt price edges up ahead of Eid ul Azha every year. He also said early measures could contain such price hike of salt.
"The government has the statistics whether the salt import is needed. If salt has to be imported, it should be done in proper time," he observed.
It was learnt that the traders take advantage of the high demand of salt during the Eid-ul-Azha. Traders said that the price might rise further in the next few days.
The government earlier allowed the traders to import 5 lakh tonnes of salt to help check the price hike of salt, but the millers said the imported salt is yet to hit the market.
According to the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) data, salt production in the country was around 13.5 lakh tonnes last season against the total demand of 16 lakh tonnes. Salt production was lower this year due to adverse weather conditions.
Market insiders predict more than one crore pieces of raw hide will be collected this season. Each hide needs 12-15 kilograms of salt for proper preservation. The cost of preserving a piece of hide was around Tk 150 last year which might soar to Tk 200 this time.
Shakhawat Ullah, General Secretary of Bangladesh Tanner Association (BTA), said mixing adequate salt in rawhides is essential for quality leather. Every year it is seen that the seasonal traders don't use sufficient amount of salt in rawhide which affects the quality of the items.
"This season will be a tough season for the tanners as the tanneries relocated to Savar leather estate. So if the seasonal traders do not mix adequate salt in rawhides, 30 percent rawhide may get rotten," he told the daily-sun.
He also said they sought permission from the government for importing salt.
Expressing the same fear, chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association (BLFFEA) Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin said 30 percent rawhide was affected last year for not applying sufficient amount of salt for preserving the animal hides.
“Every year, the price of salt gets doubled soon before this season. The government should look into this issue seriously. It should monitor salt price and ensure timely import of the item,” he said.