Shortage of fertilizers leaves farmers worried

Published On: June 5, 2017 12:10 AM NPT By: Madhusudhan Guragain

BANEPA, June 5: Farmers of Kavre and Sindhupalchowk districts are in deep trouble as Agriculture Inputs Company Ltd (AICL) and Salt Trading Corporation Ltd (STCL) have failed to supply sufficient chemical fertilizers there.

Though paddy plantation season has already begun, the two state-owned companies have not been able to supply urea and Diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizers to these two districts. Officials of local farmers' cooperatives, who have reached Banepa and Dhulikhel, are forced to return empty-handed.

“We had 55,000 sacks of fertilizers in stock in our Dhulikhel depot till November. Now, we don't have any fertilizers in stock. The small consignments coming from Birgunj cannot fulfill this seasonal demand,” Ashok Kumar Khadka, a section officer with AICL's Kavre Office, said.

He also said that the company sold large quantities of urea and DAP fertilizers to the cooperatives of Kavre and Sindhupalchowk after the first phase of local level polls. “We supplied fertilizers as per the demand as we have huge quantity of fertilizers in stock,” Khadka said, adding: “The supplies that we had been getting from our central office decreased significantly from May-end.”

AICL has been supplying chemical fertilizers to Kavre and Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Ramechhap and Okhaldhunga from its Dhulikhel depot.

This is the first time in five years that the AICL's Dhulikhel branch has seen shortage of chemical fertilizers. The company has already sold 3,822 tons of urea fertilizers till May this year, 350 tons more compared at the same time last year. Similarly, it has supplied 2,521 tons of DAP till May this year, 1020 tons more than what it had supplied till May last year.

“We are seeing shortage despite improving supplies in the market. Cooperatives might have kept fertilizers in stock, fearing scarcity,” he added. Khadka further added that farmers might be hoarding fertilizers fearing due to second-phase of local level elections scheduled for next months. 

Even during Indian blockade last year, the company had managed to supply chemical fertilizers without any hiccups.

“If we get 15 truckloads of supplies everyday for a week, we can fulfill the demand for the time being. We have already forwarded this proposal to the central office,” Khadka said.

Shiva Prasad Simkhada, the chief district officer of Kavre and the president of District Fertilizer Supply and Distribution Committee, said that the local administration has requested the chief of AICL for increasing supply to the district. “We have found him positive toward our demand,” he added.

Altogether 537 cooperatives have received dealership of the AICL Dhulikhel Office for distributing chemical fertilizers to farmers. Of them, 305 are from Kavre, 148 from Sindhupalchowk, 52 from Dolakha and 32 from Ramechhap. They have been supplying subsidized chemical fertilizers to the farmers.

The demand for DAP is high in Kavre and Sindhupalchowk where potato farming is popular among farmers. In other districts, demand for urea is high. Urea is mostly used in mustard and wheat farms.

Jivan Khanal, the chief of STCL Banepa Branch, accepted that his office has failed to supply provide fertilizers as per the demand of cooperatives. “We have supplied fertilizers to the cooperatives by channeling suppliers from as far as Bhairahawa. But we have managed to provide them 15-20 sacks only,” he added.

According to Khanal, the STCL Banepa Branch has been supplying fertilizers to farmers through 125 cooperatives. “Fertilizers ordered by STCL is about to enter the country. We will be able supply fertilizers as demanded by the cooperatives within a week,” he added.

Whither monitoring? 
It is surprising that neither the state-owned agencies AICL and STCL, nor the farmers' cooperatives have chemical fertilizers in stock. Farmers, however, say that chemical fertilizers are easily available in shops in Banepa, Dhulikhel, Panchkhal, Dolalghat, Kuntabesi and Sipaghat.     

The subsidized rate of urea and DAP is Rs 847 and Rs 2,296 per sack. But local shops are charging as much as Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,500 per sack of urea and Rs 2,800 to Rs 3,000 per sack of DAP.

“Subsidized fertilizers are being sold from local shops at inflated rates. How did the fertilizers, which can be sold only by the cooperatives, reach the shops?” questioned Gyan Bahadur Thapa, a local farmer.

Though there is a provision of appointing chemical fertilizer inspector for market monitoring in every District Agricultural Development Office, market monitoring by the office has been stopped after local cooperatives expressed commitment to monitor the market themselves.

Farmers say black-market is flourishing in the lack of market monitoring mechanism.

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