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Vol. 24 No.1
January - March 2007

ISSN 0125-0159

Editor's Note
Special Feature
Sufficiency Economy
Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul: The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy for the World
Pattani Salt: The Fair Trade Culture of Buy Ten and Get One Free
The Mekong: The River of Life and Culture
Biodiesel Comes to Fuel Users’ Rescue
In Focus
Recycling for Art’s Sake, at Wat Suwannaram
Apae Amor, the Outstanding Akha Guide at Akha Hill House
Thai Touch
The Diving Paradise of Ko Tao
Keyword Search

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Pattani Salt: The Fair Trade Culture of Buy Ten and Get One Free

If someone mentions the Thai regional fish sauce called budu, many will think of southern Thailand, because most of the countrys budu sauce is produced there. To southerners, any food is delicious if they just add some budu.

This kind of fish sauce is a byproduct resulting from preserving fish for long-term consumption. Locals mix sea fish with sea salt to keep them for a long time. If they are careful not to make the mixture too salty, the fermentation will yield excellent budu, which will impressively enhance the flavor of any dish.

In the making of budu, Thai southerners depend on salt from Pattani, as this southern province is the major source of sea salt in the region. The taste of Pattani salt is not as strong as salt from other parts of the country. Salt production in Pattani dates back to over 600 years ago. The production technique of Pattani salt has been transferred from generation to generation. Most salt farmers are men. So in the salt fields there can be fathers and sons, younger and elder brothers, grandfathers and grandsons, or fathers and their sons-in-law. Women take part only if there is a shortage of men to work the fields.

Pattani salt farmers say local salt fields tend to be clustered in Bana, Tanyong Luloh, and Barahom subdistricts of Muang Pattani district and in Bang Pu subdistrict of Yaring district. The production depends on the weather. It lasts long and gives high yields in a dry year, but in a rainy year, producing sea salt is difficult or even completely impossible.

The production usually starts in January, when salt farmers build earthen dykes around their salt fields. They make the dykes and the fields firm with rollers made of hard wood or coconut trunks.

In February the farmers allow a small amount of seawater into the fields to test their soil. If a thin layer of salt remains when the water evaporates, the fields will be ready for full production. Farmers usually keep the level of seawater in their fields at about the depth of their index finger and wait for 10-15 days. A low level of seawater will quickly produce salt that is not too salty. A high level of seawater will yield more salt, and make it more concentrated. Pattani salt farmers favor a taste that is not very salty, unlike their counterparts in Phetchaburi province, whose product has a stronger flavor. The time of the salt harvest in Pattani is in March and April.

Salt sales occur between May and July, but farmers do not have to rush. They can wait for satisfactory prices because their product never rots, and salt prices certainly climb if they wait until the rains. The salt sale period is the prime time for the farmers. Traders from many towns get their salt supply from Pattani as they are impressed with not only the good taste and cleanliness of Pattani salt but also the long-standing business culture of Pattani salt farmers.

One important tradition is that farmers willingly give customers one part of salt for every ten parts purchased. Ancestors of Pattani salt farmers told the younger ones not to take advantage of their customers. They explained that salt might spill while it is being shoveled, so the one-tenth giveaway compensates for the spill. The giveaway culture still remains when customers buy salt directly from farmers, though it might not be applied in markets where standard measuring tools are used. Although the old-time culture has been replaced to a certain extent by technology, Pattani salt farmers still possess the spirit of fair trade and are ready to pass it along to future generations. The ratio of one part given away for every 10 parts sold continues to complement the uniquely pleasant taste of Pattani salt.

Story: yean240
Photos: yean240

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