Govt fails to keep its promise to provide adequate subsidized fertilizers to farmers

Published On: June 24, 2020 06:26 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The fairy tale of the govt leaves farmers in lurch when rice transplantation speeds up

KATHMANDU, June 24: Chemical fertilizer imported by Nepal is stuck at the Indian port after the Indian authorities turned reluctant to facilitate movement of the Nepal-bound cargo of the agriculture essential. This has created an acute shortage of chemical fertilizer as the rice plantation season began in the country with the onset of the rainy season.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), currently 21,500 tons of Urea is stuck at the Kandala port in Gujarat, while around 89,000 tons of fertilizer already bound to Nepal is yet to arrive in the country.  

The ministry’s officials said Indian authorities have given assurances to release the Nepal-bound fertilizer as soon as possible. Citing the problem of transport logjam at Kolkata Port, the ministry earlier had diverted the aforementioned consignment of fertilizer to the new port.   

Hari Bahadur KC, spokesperson of the ministry, said the government authority is unable to ferry the imported fertilizer due to restriction of transport movement amid the lockdown situation in India. “This has resulted in the shortage of chemical fertilizer in the domestic market,” said KC.

Almost every year, the ministry through a global tendering process purchases the fertilizer needed for the rice transplantation. The government has earmarked Rs 10 billion to purchase fertilizer in the current fiscal year, up from Rs 8.99 billion in the previous fiscal year. Compared to the budget allocation of Rs 5.67 billion in 2015/16, the government has almost doubled the funds in the heading in order to ease the supply of fertilizer.

The government has been subsidizing chemical fertilizers to provide some relief to farmers. Farmers are given subsidies of 65-70% of the original cost in Urea, 25-30% in DAP and 30-32% in Potash. At the government subsidized rate, farmers pay Rs 14 per kg for Urea, Rs 43 per kg for DAP and Rs 31 a kg to purchase Potash.

The government earmarked a budget for 450,000 tons of the subsidized fertilizers this year. This quantity is claimed to be excess by 100,000 tons than the one the government provided last year to the farmers.

However, the farmers almost every year have to struggle to get adequate quantities of the agricultural input. Misappropriation by the cooperatives authorized to sell the fertilizer, irregularities by the government officials or the delay in transport movement on the Indian land are believed to be the main reasons behind this. 

The ministry has delegated authorities to the government-owned Salt Trading Corporation and Agriculture Inputs Company Limited to import and sell the agricultural inputs to the farmers via cooperatives.

Of the total quantity, 340,000 tons of fertilizer has already been distributed to the farmers, while the rest of 110,000 tons is in process to arrive in the country, according to the MoALD. The government had claimed to bring in entire consignments of the fertilizer to the country by June end, a similar fairy tale of the authority that farmers have been hearing almost every year.  

The agriculture ministry records show that the annual demand for chemical fertilizers currently stands at around 800,000 tons, while official imports stands at 450,000 tons only. Subsidized fertilizer covers only half of the country’s total need, while the rest is met by informal imports or shipments smuggled through the open border with India.

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