Pink salt thrives in China | The Express Tribune


BEIJING:

Himalayan rock salt from Pakistan is making a splash in the Chinese market.

“You see, I have sold four batches in such a few days. On November 6 alone, more than 50 salt lamps were sold to customers,” Mian Muhammad Zubair, in charge of Pak-Persian salt lake booth, told journalists from the China Economic Net (CEN) at the fourth China International Import Expo (CIIE) held recently.

It was the second time that CEN journalists paid a visit to the booth. Unlike last time, many salt lamps on the shelves have been labeled as “booked” even the costly large one on the ground has been reserved for some generous clients.

The salt for these lamps is exploited from Khewra Salt Mine, Punjab, which is also the world’s leading producer of Himalayan pink salt.

As the second largest salt deposit in the world, the Khewra mine is estimated to have more than one billion tons of salt in store.

Since mining started in 1838, more than 350,000 tons of rock salt with a purity of 98% has been produced annually.

After being made into a wide range of products such as edible pink salt, salt lamps, bath salts, salt bricks, etc, they are exported to China, Britain, the United States and many other countries, making a name all over the world.

According to Chinese customs, China imported RMB 12.2 million (Rs330 million) worth of Himalayan rock salt in the first half of 2020.

In addition to some packaged, branded products imported from the US, more than 90% of China’s imported Himalayan rock salt is from Pakistan.

“There are pink, black, and white salt in Pakistan. Black salt lamps are rare, but pink ones are more popular in China,” said Zubair.

According to him, this is the first time for black salt lamps to appear at CIIE.

The Himalayan salt lamp is a sought-after product in the world’s second largest consumer market. Within five minutes of the journalists’ stopover at the Pak-Persian booth, at least three Chinese buyers inquired and bought the salt lamps.

“We plan to place it in the living room. Later, we might transform one of the rooms into a salt room. We can also use the salt for bathing,” said a Chinese buyer in the massive health industry.

The flocking Chinese buyers reflect the enthusiasm of Chinese consumers for salt lamps.

On a major e-commerce platform in China, over 600 commodities are displayed under the category of “Himalayan salt lamp”.

Apart from salt lamps, pink salt is even more popular in the Chinese market.

“Himalayan pink salt with Pakistan as its main country of origin is our feature product for CIIE this year,” revealed Zhongbai Investment Group Co Ltd Project Director Zhou Wenqi.

Pakistani pink salt distinguishes itself with the marble-like appearance and colour, as well as the processing and production technology. In addition, people’s admiration towards the Himalayas adds to their appeal.

“We have decades of experience in selling salt. We started selling Chinese domestic salt and then imported Australian sea salt. With the increase of sea salt products in the Chinese market, mineral salt and deep mountain salt are becoming more and more accepted in China, especially in the coastal areas,” said Wenqi.

A search for pink salt on China’s major e-commerce platform yielded more than 160,000 items. The best-selling Himalayan pink salt has more than 20,000 customer comments.

A bottle of pink salt weighs 1.5 kg and costs RMB 79 (about Rs2,105), which is about seven times the price of ordinary edible salt in China.

In addition to pink salt, Chinese exhibitors also took the initiative to introduce Pakistani pink salt mixed products. At the CIIE, the CEN reporter first saw mixed condiments with pink salt and black pepper, pink salt and rosemary, pink salt and chili, as well as black salt.

It is worth noting that in the Chinese market, the “Certification of Origin of Pakistan” is becoming the authentic identity mark of Himalayan pink salt.

To curb the unauthorised sale of Pakistani products by other countries, Pakistan announced this year that pink salt was registered as a product with geographical indication.

Pakistan also enacted the “Geographical Indications Act 2020” to protect its local products, combat counterfeit products and ensure better prices in foreign markets.

Himalayan salt was once imported in large quantities by countries such as India, then processed into pink salt and sold all over the world. Direct cooperation between Chinese and Pakistani trading companies can not only bring higher prices to Pakistani pink salt, but also allow Chinese consumers to obtain products at good prices.

A professional buyer from Tianjin said that he initially bought pink salt from Canada, which was also produced in Pakistan.

“If we can contact Pakistani suppliers through the CIIE, we don’t have to purchase from the United States or Canada, and the price will fall.”

In general, the sales of Himalayan rock salt products in the Chinese market are accelerating.

According to the Annotations on Domestic Sub-categories of the Customs Import and Export Tariff of the People’s Republic of China, Himalayan rock salt falls under category 25010019, the applicable most-favoured-nation tax rate and general tariff rate are both zero and its value-added tax rate is 13%.

Chinese customs data shows that the total amount of other salts imported by China from Pakistan increased by 29% in 2020 compared with 2019.

From January to September 2021, China’s import growth rate further accelerated, with a year-on-year increase of more than 60%, which also confirms the growth rate of China’s import of Himalayan salt products from Pakistan.

“China will firmly share market opportunities with the rest of the world. Our annual import in goods and services is valued at around $2.5 trillion. All this offers an enormous market. Going forward, China will lay more emphasis on expanding imports, and pursue balanced development of trade,” Chinese President Xi Jinping made the remarks while addressing the opening ceremony of the 4th CIIE via video.

Jinping’s speech has also demonstrated China’s resolve to increase imports from neighbouring countries and promote Silk Road e-commerce.

Pakistani Ambassador to China Moinul Haque believes that Pakistan’s exports to China will double in the next three to five years.

THE ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE CHINA ECONOMIC NET

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2021.

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