By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
LAOAG, Ilocos Norte — Asin or salt producers in this province use imported materials in their production as a move away from the traditional labor intensive process and to address the growing public demand for salt.It is seen however as another move to market imported materials and compete with the local production market for salt.
In the salt producing town of Pasuquin of this province, producers are buying imported salt tablets from Australia to process with sea water for speed-up their production. One of the 22 towns of this province and a fourth class municipality, Pasuquin has been known to the source of the finest salt since time immemorial.
“The sodium tablets, locally called pure salt, are imported from Australia. We buy these imported salt tablets in Manila and bring it here to Ilocos for our production ,” explained Jojo Balmares, an employee of the Arnulfo Salt Refinery.
Process of production
These salt tablets are diluted with the sea water piped from the nearby China sea; then heated in a vat to come up with salt grains. The process lessens the labor intensive and tedious process of traditional salt production, explained Balmares, a 27 year old, in a hut in Pasuquin where they produce the salt grain.
Banares said that 12 sacks of salt tablets are diluted with sea water in a vat. After the heating and production process, they produce more or less 20 sacks of salt granules. Salt here is sold at P50 per pack and P200 per sack at the stalls along the highway of the town with other local products like suka (sugarcane vinegar), basi (sugarcane wine), native bawang (garlic) and lasona (red onion bulbs).
Manila producers do away with the heating and production process that they do in Ilocos, Nordis learned from Balmares. “These companies use machines to refine these salt tablets, a faster production than we do,” he said in Ilocano. Asked why they do not adopt the system that their Manila counterparts do, Balmares claimed that adding water from the China sea flavor their product and seems to make it more salty, a local trademark of the Pasuquin salt granules.
The Ilocos provinces are historically known as producers of salt. Pre-colonial trade show that sea water salt is among the products brought home to the Cordillera villages by the Igorots’ trade with their Ilocano counterpart in the lowland.
A student of Baguio City’s Easter College, Sergei Gomuad, who was among those who visited the salt producing town, observed that their (Balmares) production is still dependent on imported materials. “With such reality, it will slowly kill the salt industry and the historical trade known since our ancestors traded with the Ilocanos,” he said. It is like pitting the cheap Taiwan garlic with the well loved Ilocano bawang, he ended. # nordis.net