31st Sea Games - Vietnam 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic
Jul 10, 2021 / 21:01

The Diplomat describes salt harvesting scene in Vietnam

The Diplomat, an international online news magazine, praised the beauty of Vietnamese salt fields and salt farmers at work.

“White Gold” is the word that the US-based online magazine used to describe the salt of Vietnam. The photo collection by Sugato Mukherjee gave a glimpse of salt harvesting life in Hon Khoi peninsular, Ninh Hoa district in the southern province of Khanh Hoa.

“In the latter half of the 19th century, south-central Vietnam was introduced to salt farming. Within a few decades, it became such a flourishing business that the mineral was called “white gold,” and a lot of fisherfolk changed their profession to become salt farmers,” The Diplomat stated.

The Hon Khoi peninsular is around 40 kilometers away from the coastal city of Nha Trang - a renowned tourist hub in the Central of Vietnam. The trade of making salt in the place dated back to the late 19th century and become flourished in recent decades, according to The Diplomat.

This is the home of the diem dan (salt farmers) community, who have been producing salt for generations in the area’s expansive salt pans. Hon Khoi produces one-third of Vietnam’s salt. The 30,000 tons of annual production are used for domestic consumption and also exported to Japan and the United States. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also adversely affected the industry. It has resulted in a sharp dip in salt prices, from US$0.50 per kilogram to just $0.26, primarily because of the demand for salt in Vietnam’s fishing industry, which is the traditional buyer of domestic salt for fish sauce and seafood products, has hit an all-time low.

The dry months from January to June have been the traditional salt harvesting season. The farmers have to work on the salt fields for around seven to eight hours under the scorching hot. 
The saltines in Hon Khoi peninsular are run by small, family-run cooperatives where both male and female salt harvesters are paid equally, according to the article. 
A woman carries two bamboo baskets loaded with salt on her pole-shoulder. Each basket can be loaded with around 10 kilograms of salt. 
  1. Meanwhile, men rake in the salt crystals with wide-mouthed shovels, gather them into small mounds of crystal salt, so that women can carry them onto the higher ground for drying.
Although it is the main source of income, salt farming brings back a very little and unstable income for Hon Khoi villagers.
Each of these salt farmers can earn around VND100,000 to VND150,000 ($4.3 to $6.5) per day that is merely enough to feed the whole family for one day. 
The payout is directly related to the production volume, meanwhile, the fruitful harvests depend on the weather. The diem dan have to turn to fish for the remaining half of the year, from June to December, to earn a living.
  1. The salt farmers covered their salt field to protect the salt- and also the fruits of their work - from rain.
A salt farmer rides her motorcycle to get home early as heavy rain is about to fall on the Hon Khoi peninsula.