Salt shortage ‘in days’ if iodine condition enforced, warns sundry shop group

The health ministry announced last Friday that salt weighing less than 20kg must be added with iodine before it can be sold.

PETALING JAYA: An association representing more than 4,000 sundry shop owners has warned of a possible salt shortage “in days” because of Putrajaya’s requirement for iodine to be added to salt from today.

In a statement today, the Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Associations of Malaysia said the entire supply chain did not have enough time to comply with the requirement.

Its president Hong Chee Meng said the health ministry’s statement, issued on Sept 25, said iodine must be added to salt less than 20kg before it could be sold.

“It is very difficult for the market to comply within five days which is a very short notice,” he said, adding manufacturers and importers needed to be given time to comply with the new requirement.

“Not to mention there are tonnes of salt stored in manufacturers’, importers’ and distributors’ warehouses nationwide that would need to be reprocessed to be added with iodine.”

Hong said while the government stated that the regulation was gazetted in 2018, there was no communication nor consultation with the supply chain until five days ago.

“This announcement has taken many businesses in the salt industry by surprise and the businesses and retailers are not prepared for it,” he said, adding there was a lot of confusion in the market.

“If the government insists on requiring no sale of salt without iodine based on the current deadline, we foresee the market will face a shortage of salt nationwide starting in the next few days as wholesalers and retailers will have to stop selling salt without iodine to avoid facing the penalty and wait for the products that meet the requirements to come into the market, which will take time.”

He added they were not against the requirement but just that the industry needed time to comply as it affected the supply chain nationwide.

Hong urged the government to enforce the new requirement from Jan 1, 2021, and to consider the economic impact of it at a time when businesses were struggling to cope with Covid-19.