BEIJING, March 17 (Xinhua) -- China's largest salt maker relieved public concern Thursday, saying the country has substantial salt reserves to meet the demand for the product.
"We have ample salt reserves to meet people's needs and panic buying and hoarding is unnecessary," China National Salt Industry Corp. (China Salt), the country largest salt company, said in a statement to Xinhua.
China Salt said the company has launched an emergency response mechanism to step up production and start a 24-hour distribution program.
Dong Yongsheng, deputy general manager of China Salt, said the tight supply of salt in some cities came after panic buying reduced stocks.
"This is an irrational phenomenon," Dong said, "in fact, the salt reserve is quite substantial in China and salt companies usually have stocks for three months' consumption."
Dong said China has an annual salt production capacity of more than 80 million tonnes but the country's consumption of edible salt was about 8 million tonnes a year.
"We are completely capable of guaranteeing the supply of edible salt in the country," he said.
Supermarkets in many Chinese cities have run out of salt as a wave of panic buying spread from east China's Zhejiang Province Thursday afternoon to Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Jiangsu and Hubei provinces as well as the municipalities of Beijing and Chongqing.
Rumors in some Chinese cities say that radiation has leaked into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan, compromising the safety of salt taken from the sea in the future.
Another reason people have rushed to buy is that salt with iodine is believed to help protect people from nuclear radiation amid speculation of price hikes of edible salt.
In Zhejiang alone, China Salt reported a total sales of 4,000 tonnes of salt on Thursday, or eight times of the province's average daily sales figure.
China Salt warned that as the price of salt is controlled by the government in China, people hoarding to force up its price could be punished by law.
Su Xu, a researcher with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that iodized salt would do little to help protect against radiation and warned that taking excessive amounts of iodine was harmful.
"Iodine drugs should be used only under the medical supervision of doctors and medicine specialists," he said.