Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a chemical compound that is an essential element in the diet of humans, animals, and even many plants. Since prehistoric times, salt has been used to preserve foods and was commonly used in the religious rites of the Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and Christians. Salt, in the form of salt cakes, served as money in ancient Ethiopia and Tibet. As long ago as 1450 BC, Egyptian art shows records of salt production.
The simplest method of obtaining salt is through the evaporation of salt water from areas near oceans or seas. In most regions, rock salt is obtained from underground mining or by wells sunk into deposits. Salt is soluble in water, is slightly soluble in alcohol, but is insoluble in concentrated hydrochloric acid. In its crystalline form, salt is transparent and colorless, shining with an ice-like luster.
Prices - Salt prices in 2007 (vacuum and open pan, FOB mine) rose +2.1% yr/yr to $150.00 per ton, which was a new record high.
Supply - World production of salt in 2007 fell -0.4% yr/yr to 250.000 million metric tons. The world's largest salt producers are China with 22% and the U.S. with 18% of world production in 2007. U.S. salt production in 2007 fell -0.4% yr/yr to 43.800 million metric tons.
Demand - U.S. consumption of salt in 2007 fell -2.0% to 49.900 million metric tons, down from the 2005 record high of 56.200 million metric tons.
Trade - The U.S. relied on imports for 18% of its salt consumption in 2007, down from 23% in 2004. U.S. imports of salt for consumption in 2007 rose +5.4% yr/yr to 10.000 million metric tons, but still below 2003's record high of 12.9 million metric tons. U.S. exports of salt in 2007 rose by +2.8% to 1.000 million metric tons, with the bulk of those exports going to Canada.