Home NewsAustralia Australia’s most northern salt harvest just kicked off, but the end result won’t end up on your table

Australia’s most northern salt harvest just kicked off, but the end result won’t end up on your table

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Most farmers welcome rain — besides at harvest — however for the salt trade it is extra curse than blessing.  

Except for resulting in a scarcity of seasoning, rain on the salt plains also can spell bother for pool house owners.

Earlier this yr, there was a shortage of salt for pools on the east coast due to significant rain events, significantly in New South Wales. 

And additional heavy rainfall this summer season might drive up the demand for salt to sanitise swimming pools, as salty pool water is diluted and misplaced via overflows.

So why is rain a problem?

The nation’s northernmost saltworks, positioned within the meals bowl of Bowen, has existed for nearly a century.

The present proprietor, Australian Saltworks, has run it for seven years.

Director Michael McNamara mentioned this yr was one of many wettest he had seen.

Michael McNamara kneels in a salt pile at Australian Saltworks' Bowen operation
Many of the salt produced in Bowen goes in the direction of making stockfeed.(ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw)

“[Rain’s] the enemy for a salt producer, and in a median yr we make common quantities of salt, however when it is moist, we make much less,” he mentioned.

“This yr it has been a good bit wetter than common.

“That can scale back our salt manufacturing and our harvest, probably by about 30 or 40 per cent this yr.”

In a median yr Australian Saltworks could be harvesting 20,000 tonnes on the web site, however this yr the amount shall be nowhere close to that.

Mr McNamara mentioned the season was often nicely timed to dodge the moist climate.

“Our annual cycle begins with salt manufacturing after the moist season [and] we deposit salt via the course of the dry a part of the yr,” he mentioned.

“And earlier than the moist season, we soar in and we get that salt, we harvest it and get it right into a stack the place it is protected from the rains in the course of the moist season.”

From salt fields to swimming swimming pools and stockfeed

About 75 per cent of the the salt produced on the Australian Saltworks Bowen web site goes into feed for livestock, whereas the second largest portion of their product goes into swimming pools.

Hands holding salt harvested at the Australian Saltworks Bowen plant
This yr’s “wetter than common” circumstances have not been very best for producing salt.(ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw)

Mr McNamara mentioned whereas the rain made producing salt more durable, it had a constructive impression on demand from the pool trade.

“Right now of the yr, when it begins to get wetter, folks have a tendency to purchase extra salt to place into their swimming swimming pools,” Mr McNamara mentioned.

He mentioned the method of getting the salt from the sector to the pool was fascinating.

“The salt discipline makes use of seawater as an enter, so you have bought salt within the seawater,” Mr McNamara mentioned.

Water in a pool
Rain does result in a rise in demand for pool salt.(Flickr: Zalgon)

The salt discipline has a sequence of evaporation ponds that the water strikes via, with the focus rising in every as extra water evaporates.

“Ultimately after a time period that salt is able to come out of resolution and we deposit it into our crystallisers, that are constructed ponds,” Mr McNamara mentioned.

“And that is what we harvest every year.”

The harvested moist product is processed and completed as a dry product, which is then crushed extra finely and packaged earlier than it hits the market.

The pipe at the Bowen saltworks where saltwater flows from the ocean to the evaporation ponds
Saltwater flows in from the ocean via a pipe then passes via a sequence of evaporation ponds.(ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw)

Pool house owners feeling much less of the pinch

Glen Selby, who supervises the pool counter at Dowdens pumping and water therapy in Mackay, agreed salt appeared to be in brief provide.

“I do know different pool retailers are sending [customers] right here so there have to be a scarcity for that to occur,” Mr Selby mentioned.

However he mentioned he was at the moment well-stocked.

Nevertheless, Mr Selby mentioned plenty of rain within the new yr might wash the salt out of swimming pools and drive up demand as soon as once more.

“You by no means know what is going on to occur across the nook, if we get a cyclone or one thing like that the place we get completely gallons of water dumped on this space,” he mentioned

“However at this level, with out inclement climate or a cyclone or one thing, we must be OK to get via the following couple of months.”

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