Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sea salt production

We all consume salt everyday but have you put any thought into how it gets to our kitchens?
Coarse sea salt

My first trip to Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale, in Petchaburi province was in Dec 2011 on a trip to photograph the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper. These tiny birds winter in this an area that is mostly salt pans, mudflats, mangrove and sand spit. Another example of how such areas are important to wildlife. 
This region is the largest source of Thailand's salt industry, where you will see vast rectangular salt pans. There is a three stage process to the production of sea salt.
Step 1: Sea water is pumped from the Gulf of Thailand into the flat shallow pans and left to evaporate in the tropical sun.
Step 1
Step 2: Crystallized salt is raked and rolled smoothed, fields glistening in the sun like ice rinks. More sea water is pumped in to continue the evaporation process.
Step 2

Step 3: Finally, the salt is piled into little pyramids, then collected by workers carrying bamboo poles balanced with wicker baskets, transporting the salt to be cleaned and bagged. 
Step 3

Did you know? Thailand produces over 1,000,000 tonnes of sea salt a year, making the country the 26th largest producer in the world. However, this is a labor intensive industry is driven by migrant labor from Myanmar as not many Thais want to work in the salt pans. They end up in countries such as Singapore in higher paying blue-collar jobs.

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