Since the discovery of salt some hundreds of years ago, as an important commodity for domestic and industrial use, Nigeria still spends huge amount of foreign exchange on the importation of the commodity, either in processed or raw form. This is because Nigeria can not boast of a single salt processing industry in the country. There are only salt packaging industries in the country.
The country is blessed with natural brine in lakes, springs and saline and rock salt deposits which has been discovered in different parts of the country. In spite of the abundance of the sources of salt in the country, the processing of the commodity is still done locally by rural dwellers.
Salt is obtained from two sources: rock salt and brine. Rock salt is simply crystallized salt, also known as halite. It is the result of the evaporation of ancient oceans millions of years ago. Large deposits of rock salt are found in Nigeria.
Brine is water containing a high concentration of salt. The most obvious source of brine is the ocean, but it can also be obtained from salty lakes such as the Dead Sea and from underground pools of salt water. There are salt springs at Awe (Plateau State), Abakaliki (Ebonyi State) and Uburu (Imo State), while rock salt is available in Benue State. A total reserve of 1.5 billion tonnes has been indicated, and further investigations are now being carried out by government to ascertain the quantum of reserves.
The national demand for table salt, caustic soda, chlorine, sodium bicarbonate, sodium hypochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide exceeds one million tonnes. A colossal amount of money is expended annually to import these chemicals by various companies including tanneries, food beverages, paper and pulp, bottling and other industries including the oil companies. Most table salt is iodized in order to provide the trace element iodine to the diet. This helps to prevent iodine deficiency disorder (IDD), including goiter, a disease of the thyroid gland.
To supply iodine, a small amount of potassium iodide or iodate is added. Table salt also contains a small amount of various chemicals used to keep the salt from absorbing water and caking. These chemicals include magnesium carbonate, calcium silicate, calcium phosphate, magnesium silicate, and calcium carbonate.
Local technology now exist for the processing of salt in Nigeria , and some of the equipments required includes passive Solar Drier, which is made up of chimney, drying chamber, chamber door and flat plat collector. Others are thin layer evaporator; comprising of brine feed tanker, a chimney, fire box and combustion, fire box-door/damper, hot brine thermometer and cold brine.
Table salt, because they are met for human consumption requires to be registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, the food drugs administration agency of the Nigerian Government in order to guarantee the safety of the product for human consumption.
The market for salt is a reflection of the population and Nigeria with a population of over 150 million people growing at an annual rate of 5.7% per annum has a large local market for the product. Salt can also be exported to other countries in Europe and America where can be used in the production of animal nutrition, roadway safety and water conditioning.
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