July 2023

In many countries around the world, households consume salt that is traditionally harvested at a small scale by local producers who have done so for generations.  Families and even communities often economically depend on this production as a main – although often meager – income source, or an important addition. This is the case in countries such as Sudan, Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan and Cambodia.

These producers face many challenges, including harvesting predictable quantities, providing good quality salt with low moisture and high purity, using appropriate packaging for their product, and having good access to transport and to the market. On top of that, their market share is often threatened by bigger industrial producers who produce a better-quality product.

From an iodine nutrition perspective, these salt producers supply many households, especially the poorest and most difficult to reach, and their salt should be iodized.  But in what is often a very low-margin, traditional operation, the scale of production, the impurity of the salt, the producers’ limited investment capability and access to loans, and technical production capacity often limit the ability of these producers to iodize.


UNICEF Madagascar

Supporting small producers to iodize their salt  has seen many approaches for several decades by international and national organizations, and IGN has just conducted a review of these efforts. Support has included provision of iodization equipment, donating or ensuring access to potassium iodate, and providing technical support for product improvement. Efforts were made in many countries to consolidate these traditional producers into cooperatives or more informal groups to enhance efficiency of production, processing and marketing, and to provide support through these cooperatives or groups. The review showed many examples of equipment in disrepair and producers who have left groups or cooperatives.

In the initial years of the USI campaign, the focus was on getting salt iodized.  But our review has shown that there was less focus on the economic and sustainability angle, and these efforts have had mixed results with  a substantial risk of collapse of iodization after external support ends.

Working with small producers is often the right thing to do, including efforts to build small businesses through social protection schemes.  For these efforts to achieve sustained improvement they must be based on a sound, viable business model that meets small producers’ needs.  The first step is to conduct a realistic review and economic analysis of the salt market, especially the areas of potential sales and profitability. If this shows promise for small producers, it should be followed by an assessment of the acceptability and real possibility of consolidation options, as well as the analysis  of potential risks to success. After that, the need for longer-term support and ultimate sustainability of these measures can be considered, setting small producers up for success as part of a sustainable program reaching households with quality iodized salt.