By Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin,
S&T Media Service
Experts mapped out selected salt farms in Iloilo, Antique, Guimaras, and Negros Occidental in the Visayas and Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga in Mindanao islands using the ArcGIS 10.5 software to track the country’s supply chain in the salt manufacturing industry as reference for future development.
The GIS maps will be useful references for devising salt production suitability maps that will tackle the land and water resources and infrastructure, enabling salt farming in the selected study sites. The geographic location of the supply chain actors’ visibility on GIS maps will be an effective support tool in determining their population as well as for tracking the geographic flow of salt during production, trading, and consumption. GIS or geographic information system is a system that is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. Where some portion of the data is spatial, thus data is in some way referenced to the locations on the earth. This was cited in a study published in 2021 on “GIS Mapping of Salt Farms and Salt Supply Chain Actors in the Visayas and Mindanao, Philippines,” conducted by the team of researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños in Laguna, University of the Philippines in the Visayas, and Cavite State University. A total of 376 supply chain actors composed of 149 salt producers, 70 intermediaries, six institutional buyers, and 151 household consumers were interviewed for the collection of the salt production and marketing data “One of the industry’s biggest challenges is the changes in weather patterns due to climate change which adversely impact the production cycle. It does not help that salt remains excluded from the list of priority commodities of the government, plus the prominence of traditional methods of production, and low productivity of local farms,” as explained by Bartolome, et al., on the problems plaguing the industry. Worldwide, the Philippines ranked 28th among 91 countries in terms of the production of salt, which is surprising considering that the country is an archipelago and ranked 5th in the world (World Factbook) in terms of coastline length. In 2019, salt production reached 1,147.97 thousand metric tons (TMTs) with an average annual growth rate of 3.0%. China with 63,603.9 TMTs topped the global production of salt, followed by United States, India, Chile, and Australia. The practice of salt-making in the Philippines is dominated by the use of solar evaporation method. Salt production is carried out during the summer months, between November to April, when there is abundant sunlight and weather condition is favorable to allow the formation of salt crystals in especially built salt ponds. Out of the 149 salt farms studied, only one farm produced salt using the cooking method while the rest of the producers employed the solar evaporation technique. Over 51 percent of the 1,628,352.00 kgs of salt produced in 2018 was accounted for as Class A from the Visayas and Mindanao. Class A salt is characterized by the whitest crystals among the three salt classifications and is commonly used for home consumption. Most salt producers in the Visayas can be found in the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras. In the Mindanao region, salt farms are mostly situated in Misamis Oriental. The mapped salt supply chain participants consisted of farmers, traders and consumers. Market intermediaries or traders refer to the market players who perform one or a combination of practices involved in salt marketing. These intermediaries usually control the prices of salt depending on the practices that they perform during value-addition. They can be classified into four categories, and in the Visayas and Mindanao among those surveyed, the retailers were found to be the highest in terms of number (42.9%), followed by wholesaler-retailer (25.7%), assembler-wholesaler (22.9%), and wholesalers (8.6%). The “viajeros” or assembler-wholesaler were traced in Negros Occidental, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Misamis Oriental. These viajeros directly purchase salt from the salt producers for transporting to the market center where they are distributed to other intermediaries or directly sold to institutional buyers. With the implementation of Republic Act No. 8172 (ASIN Law), the assembler-wholesalers perform the iodization of salt before packaging if they will distribute the salt to other provinces. In their recommendation, the team of researchers suggest that to increase the accuracy of the GIS maps, the exact GPS coordinates of each supply chain actor must also be obtained. They also proposed an open-access salt-mapping system for government entities and other interested parties that will greatly help in updating and validating the information on the GIS maps. Salt is an important mineral. The bulk of salt produced worldwide goes to the industry for the manufacture of heavy chemicals, ceramics, glasses, textiles, and metals. It is also an extremely essential compound for proper nutrition and function of the human body by helping maintain internal balance, normal physiological activities, and addressing medical concerns like sore throat, toothaches, and digestion problems via intake of saline solutions.
In another front, the use of GIS technology, not only benefits the salt industry but also addresses concerns like disaster management. In fact, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has the Remote Sensing and Data Science (DATOS) Help Desk that aims to produce and communicate relevant disaster information to agencies and key end-users to complement the current efforts of existing government agencies and initiatives. DATOS builds on and integrates past and ongoing DOST-supported projects; and different Geographic Information System (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS) and other Data Science techniques. GIS also has beneficial applications in areas of health, environment protection, and agriculture, among others.