Vietnam’s salt production has reached 870,000 tonnes in the first half of the year, an increase of 9.3 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Of the quantity, more than 237,800 tonnes were produced on large-scale fields and the rest by individual farmers on a small scale.

For the first six months of the year, the volume of salt harvested from large-scale fields increased by 23 percent over the same period last year.

As of June 20, the country's quantity of salt in stock was about 346,800 tonnes.

For the first half of the year, Vietnam imported about 6 million USD of salt, down 5.5 percent year-on-year, according to the ministry.

Farmers, who have had a good harvest this year because of favourable weather, are now entering the peak salt season.

Farmer Pham Canh Nhan, who owns 3,300sq.m of salt fields in Tuy Phuoc district in Binh Dinh province, said he had harvested more than 50 tonnes of salt and earned 60 million VND (2,800 USD).

Traders are paying 1,300 VND (0.06 USD) a kilo for "clean" salt harvested in fields lined with canvas sheets that protect it from soil contamination.

"With this price, salt farmers can make a profit of 600-700 VND a kilo," Nhan said.

The price of salt harvested in fields without canvas sheets is 1,000 VND a kilo.

With higher prices, many farmers in Phu My, Phu Mat and Tuy Phuoc districts have resumed producing salt in fields that had been left vacant in previous years.

Nguyen Xuan Nam, an official with the Binh Dinh Sub-department of Rural Development, said demand for salt to process has increased compared to previous years.

In the first half of the year, the two salt processors in Binh Dinh have bought a total of 3,600 tonnes of salt to produce refined and iodised salt, he said.

"To increase value, farmers should invest in producing clean salt by using canvas sheets on salt fields," he said.

Binh Dinh has produced a total of 15,321 tonnes of salt in the first half of the year, up 20 percent against the same period last year, according to the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The ministry has encouraged farmers to use advanced production techniques, including the use of canvas sheets on salt fields to produce a cleaner salt.

Many salt-producing provinces have taught farmers advanced techniques, and have invested in infrastructure for salt production and transport.

Nguyen Thanh Cong, Chairman of the Ninh Thuy Salt Cooperative, which uses canvas sheets to produce salt in Ninh Hoa town in the central province of Khanh Hoa, said salt yields had increased two times compared to traditional methods that do not use any kind of lining atop the soil.

Salt harvested on canvas sheets is whiter, he said.

Many farmers are aware that using canvas sheets would produce higher quality of salt and yield more profits, but they do not have enough money to invest in this method.

Each hectare of salt produced on canvas sheets costs 200 million VND (9,500 USD).-VNA