KATHMANDU, Jan 24: Fertilizer weighing 7,591 metric tons dumped at the Birgunj dry port for the past one and a half year is yet to be properly managed.
Repeated calls to the ministries of finance and agriculture and livestock to manage the fertilizer have gone unheard, it has been said. The lack of coordination among the ministries and other authorities concerned has made the matter worse, according to the Birgunj Customs Office.
The fertilizer packed in sacks imported by the Salt Trading Corporation Limited (STC) and the Krishi Samagri Company Limited (KSCL) has been dumped under the open sky. As a result of the sun and rain, it has already started to rot.
The delegated legislation and government assurance committee under the federal parliament time and again held discussions and directed secretaries of the ministries and office bearers of the STC and KSCL to take necessary measures in this regard, but to no avail so far, said officials of the customs office.
A month ago, the finance ministry decided to hand the fertilizer over to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, but that never happened.
The agriculture and livestock development ministry has not easily accepted the finance ministry's latest decision on handing over the dumped fertilizer, arguing the finance ministry neglected the matter by not deciding in time.
Agriculture ministry officials have informed the parliamentary committee that they have written letters to the Ministry of Finance in this regard more than 40 times but nothing happened.
The fertilizer was brought by the UAE-based Swiss Singapore Overseas Enterprises Pvt Ltd through a tender. The consignment was bought for the Salt Trading Corporation and the Agriculture Inputs Corporation. The quality of this supply had deteriorated as it got wet due to the Amphan cyclone in the Bay of Bengal on May 16, 2020. Questions have been raised regarding the quality of 7,591 out of the 25,000 metric tonnes of the fertilizer imported in course of customs check, and this amount of fertilizer has remained unattended and left to rot.
According to the customs office, the fertilizer has remained unattended and neglected as the company that acquired the tender and the two corporations that imported it failed to give due attention to the consignment in time.
The prices of chemical fertilizers have increased almost three times in the international market in recent times. However, a large quantity of fertilizer remains in neglect on the customs office premises when most of the fertilizer producing countries do not want to export it citing increase in domestic consumption.
Experts are of the view that this fertilizer can still be used although its quality has somewhat deteriorated.
In the beginning, the Ministry of Agriculture and the two fertilizer-importing companies were found to have prodded the bodies concerned and made efforts for finding an outlet to the problem. But the agriculture ministry seems to be now shying away from its responsibility after the finance ministry said it was handing over the fertilizer, pointing out that it will have to grapple with problems regarding the quality, collection, management and distribution of the fertilizer.
Before this, the parliamentary committee had directed the Ministry of Finance to take the needed and appropriate decision regarding the fertilizer, citing that leaving the fertilizer unmanaged on the customs office premises would adversely affect the environment, harm the settlements and farms and would cause chemical pollution.