Salt provides daily bread to hundreds of households in Bac Lieu

By Nguyet Nhi   May 20, 2020 | 03:08 pm GMT+7

Dong Hai District in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu is home to hundreds of families whose entire lives are spent harvesting salt.

Dong Hai District has the largest area of salt fields at 2,300ha. In recent years, Bac Lieu authorities have invested more in infrastructure in salt production areas. Most salt producing communes now have electricity, clinics and paved roads.During the annual harvesting season from January to June, salt farmers start their day at 4 a.m. and try to finish their work as soon as possible to get away from the burning hot sun.

Dong Hai has the largest salt-producing area, 2,300 ha, in Bac Lieu and produces 20,000 tons a year. In recent years Bac Lieu authorities have invested more in infrastructure for salt production, and most communes now have electricity, clinics and paved roads.

During the annual salt making season from January to June, workers start their day at 4 a.m. and try to finish as soon as possible to get away from the burning hot sun.

After 12 to 18 days saltwater let out into the flats evaporates and leaves behind salt. The workers then rake salt into mounds in the early morning or afternoon. The mounds are left alone for three to four hours to drain the remaining water and then brought by wheelbarrows to a central point.

After 12 to 18 days saltwater let out into the flats evaporates, leaving behind salt. The workers then rake the salt into mounds in the early morning or afternoon. The mounds are left alone for three to four hours to drain the remaining water and then taken by wheelbarrows to a central point.

Working on salt fields is a strenuous and demanding job. The workers first have to store water, prepare and clear the ground for the drying process. Then saltwater is let into the fields. In Bac Lieu, salt is harvested once a year during the dry season from December to April. In 2019-2020 it produced 50,000 tons, including 4,700 tons of white salt, on 1,670 hectares of flats.

Working on salt fields is a strenuous job. The workers first have to store water, prepare and clear the ground for the drying process and let saltwater into the field. 

In Bac Lieu, salt is harvested once a year during the dry season from December to April. In 2019-2020 it produced 50,000 tons, including 4,700 tons of white salt.

The price salt has fell from VND1,500 to only VND800 a kg which affects salt makers income. Many people said that, although the price of salt decreased, they still maintained their profession, because this was traditional

The price of salt has currently almost halved to VND800 (3 US cents) a kilogram compared to the same period of last year, severely affecting workers’ incomes.

While salt farmers are only busy in the fields during the first half of the year with its sunny, dry days, they have to look for other means of income, during the wet season and thereafter.

Salt farmers only have work during the first half of the year when it is sunny and dry, and have to look for other means of income during the wet season.

In Dong Hai, both men and women are responsible for carrying baskets of salt that requires more strength. Bamboo baskets are also used for carrying the salt. They weigh 40 kg and sometimes slip from the grasp, causing the salt to scrape the workers’ back.

In Dong Hai, both men and women carry baskets of salt. Bamboo baskets used for the purpose weigh 40 kg when filled. Sometimes they slip from the grasp, causing the salt to scrape the workers’ back.

Huynh Thi Ut Muoi in Dien Hai Commune, Dong Hai District, said she has had nearly 30 years working in salt fields. Despite hard work, especially the process of carrying salt,  Muoi still clings to the job. Already 47 years old, she still works daily in the fields and earns about VND200,000 to 300,000 ($$  -  ). 

Huynh Thi Ut Muoi of Dien Hai Commune in Dong Hai said she has been working on salt fields for nearly 30 years. Now 47, she works daily and earns VND200,000-300,000 ($8.6-$12.8). 

Muoi said she has gotten used to this job for a long time. Not doing this job, I dont know what to do either. Not only me, many households in Dien Hai Commune also choose to stick to solely to salt making. This is like a traditional job of us.

"If I do not do this job, I do not know what else I will do. It is not just me. Many other people in Dien Hai Commune stick solely to salt making. This is a traditional job for us."

Immediately after harvesting the salt, salt makers continue pumping salt water into the fields. This work continued until the end of the dry season. Around early June, it rains a lot when people take a break. By early October they will return to the job.

Immediately after harvesting, the workers pump saltwater into the field. This cycle continues until the end of the dry season. Around early June it rains a lot and people take a break. By early October they return to the job.

[Caption]aa For over a century, Bac Lieu has been closely associated with the image of salt field workers. The Bac Lieu Museum has sought cultural heritage recognition for the province’s salt fields from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

For over a century Bac Lieu Province has been closely associated with the image of salt field workers. The Bac Lieu Museum has been seeking cultural heritage recognition for the province’s salt fields from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

 
 
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