Salt harvest hits HCMC's solo island commune

 Under the scorching heat of 37-38 degrees Celsius, farmers in Thieng Lieng Hamlet of HCMC's Thanh An island commune are toiling to harvest salt.

Located six kilometers from the center of Thanh An island commune in Can Gio District, Thieng Lieng Hamlet has 211 households of nearly 1,000 members. This is one of three hamlets here that still practice salt harvesting, producing more than 20,000 tons per year.

A three-meter-high pile of salt awaits traders.

Local farmers said salt harvest season usually lasts from December to May each year.

Temperatures here often reach 37-38 degrees Celsius. Nguyen Van Tot (pictured) wears boots while raking salt.

In 2007, canvas sheets were introduced to produce cleaner salt, protecting it from soil contamination, improving quality.

Le Van An, 49, pours salt onto a wheelbarrow amid the scorching heat.

With a 23-kilometer coastline, the outlying district of Can Gio, where Ho Chi Minh City authorities hope to boost the marine economy, is one of the country's top salt producers.

Nguyen Thi Hoa wears a conical hat and face cover to protect herself from the blistering sun.

Hung Anh delivers a wheelbarrow carrying 20 kilograms of salt to storage.

"Since the beginning of the year, unusual weather patterns have kept salt production low. Priced at only VND700-800 ($0.03-0.04) a kilo, many farmers have been forced to store salt and wait for more favorable times," he said.

Anh's wooden storage facility, covering 40 square meters, helps protect the salt from the elements.

According to local farmers, the quality of local salt is higher than in many other areas, though prices are lower due to expensive transportation costs, given Thanh An is an island commune.

Thanh An includes three hamlets: Thanh Hoa, Thanh Binh and Thieng Lieng. Of these, the first two are on Thanh An Island, while Thieng Lieng Hamlet is located on a separate island.

Harvested salt is typically brought by traders from southern provinces like Tien Giang, Tay Ninh and Binh Phuoc.

From noon to 2 p.m. daily, farmers scatter "seedling" salt in the fields on expectation of better salt crystallization. It takes about 10 days to prepare salt for harvesting during periods of hot weather.

"My family cultivates 1.5 hectares of salt. If the weather is good, we could harvest about 90 tons and earn tens of millions of dong (VND1 million = $43)," said Le Van An.

Salt farmers often have to look for other means of income during the wet season, typically transporting rice onto boats.

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