Not enough fertiliser for sowing season | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Not enough fertiliser for sowing season

India is facing a shortfall of a key fertiliser it imports — just ahead of the summer sowning crop season — which could hurt the country’s farm sector, vital for two-thirds of the population, HT has learnt.

delhi Updated: May 24, 2011 23:48 IST
Zia Haq and Anupama Airy

India is facing a shortfall of a key fertiliser it imports — just ahead of the summer sowning crop season —which could hurt the country’s farm sector, vital for two-thirds of the population, HT has learnt.

The deficit — due to high international prices triggered by the Arab uprisings — exposes the pitfalls of India’s over-reliance on chemicals, rather than natural bio-fertilisers, for efficient agriculture.

Moreover, the fertiliser in short supply — di-ammonium phosphate or DAP — is likely to cost R600 per tonne more this year, which could push up food prices.

Since fertiliser shortfalls can imperil food production, especially when the country is set to make food security a legal right this year, the Prime Minister’s Office has been alerted. Top secretaries, led by cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, went into a huddle to deal with the crisis on May 5.

The government is expected to modify the Fertiliser Control Order to help Indian importers to scout for new markets, such as Morocco and China.

In the meeting, the fertilisers department stated that there was about a 20% shortfall in DAP, a key component of widely-used phosphatic fertilisers. “One way to correct the situation is by substituting DAP with NPK (or nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium),” a farm ministry official said, adding this was easier said than done.

“DAP cannot be automatically substituted by complex fertilisers,” he said.

Farmers may not accept it and, moreover, such sudden changes may require farmers to be adequately trained. This could be a daunting task for farm officials, whose farmer-training record has been less than impressive.

The ministries of shipping, railways and agriculture have been asked to act swiftly once imports are contracted. However, India’s distribution network is often clogged, keeping goods and food from reaching their destinations in time.

“We must increase use of bio-fertilisers to avoid situations like these,” said US Awasthi, the managing director of IFFCO, the country’s largest cooperative fertiliser producer.