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Taobao to sellers: no more salt

By Zhang Ye (Global Times)

08:31, February 28, 2013, a leading domestic B2C e-commerce platform, announced Wednesday that the government has required it to halt all sales of edible salt after March 8, which some Taobao retailers said is likely to cause a round of panic buying of non-iodized salt.

The company received a notice from "the relevant government departments" requiring it to stop providing an online platform for the sales of edible salt produced in China and abroad, given that cross-regional sales of salt are illegal in China, Taobao's PR department told the Global Times Wednesday.

According to China's salt industry regulations, only retailers who are licensed by local salt industry supervisory departments are allowed to sell edible salt within each region. Different regions sell salt at different prices, and online sales can cause market conflicts and disorder, Yan Qiang, an analyst at Beijing-based H&J Consulting, told the Global Times.

Taobao said all concerned Taobao retailers were instructed to start clearing stock starting from Tuesday, and they must finish by March 8 or be penalized by Taobao.

Taobao believes that this decision will not have too much influence on sellers, buyers or the company itself, given that salt accounts for a very small portion of its retailers' business and shoppers seldom visit the website just to buy salt.

Another B2C platform, Dang­, told the Global Times Wednesday that it has followed its rival Taobao in halting sales of edible salt, though it did not receive any notice from the government.

The ban on selling edible salt online may close the only channel in China for domestic consumers to purchase non-iodized salt, which is hardly ever seen in stores around the country, a Taobao store owner surnamed Liang, who sells non-iodized salt products, told the Global Times Wednesday.

"Starting from Tuesday, my shop has been overwhelmed by orders for salt," he said, noting that in the past 30 days, his shop has sold 538 200-gram bags of non-iodized salt at 4.5 yuan (72 cents) a bag.

The majority of edible salt produced in China must be iodized, which was intended to prevent iodine deficiency disorders, Ma Wenfeng, an industry analyst from Beijing Oriental Agribusiness Consultants, told the Global Times Wednesday.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Health in 2012, non-iodized salt made up only 1.3 percent of the salt sold in the country in 2011.

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