In Taiwan, a festival worth its salt

Taiwan used to produce 200,000 tons of salt a year, but the industry withered away as it became cheaper to import salt. Now it is used as the basis for an annual salt festival.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

August festival crowds in Taiwan will scale a 21-yard-high hill, dive into a pool, and craft sculptures entirely of salt. Local government and state-invested refiner Taiyen Biotech Co. organized the salt-themed festival to revive a dried-up industry. The western Pacific island once produced 200,000 tons of salt per year. But after six decades of production, it became cheaper to import it.

Now local salt is used to build sculptures in the shape of old Qing Dynasty-era animal heads that sell for as much as $7,000. Taiyen Biotech Co. also sells salt-based shampoos and condiment salt in five flavors including green tea, mango, and seaweed. The Aug. 6-7 festival showcases these new salt uses and invites tourists to explore the white, oddly shaped salt hills on Taiwan’s southwest coast.

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